The elements of this painting emerged from my childhood idea of luxuriousness, one I yearned for then and thought about often. I wanted to wear a fox stole and a satin gown with a string of pearls, and live in a mansion that overlooked a lake with swans. My desires were probably impressed upon me through movies from the 1940s and my high-minded grandmother who liked the finer things in life.
For younger readers, wearing a dead animal around one’s neck may seem like the height of cruelty and disgustingness, but in my day our grandmothers saw these furry ornaments as a symbol of distinction and refinement. When no one was home I’d sneak the coveted carcass out for dress-up, and with lipstick and rouge I’d pretend I was on my way to being the next Hollywood starlet or glamorous socialite.
The stole wasn’t just fun to wear because it was sophisticated. It was also a real taxidermied animal, complete with little teeth. You could feel the bones in its arms and tail. At the same time I got to look like Zsa Zsa Gabor, I was able to snuggle and stroke a real creature that seemed the next best thing to a live pet. That smelly stole kept me company, stoked my highfalutin dreams, and delivered an hour or two of quasi-happiness.