At a distance, he looks like an old homeless man with a cyborg’s eye and in desperate need of a cane. His spine protrudes down his back like Godzilla’s back spikes. His antlers cast shadows on the ground. Hunched over, he forever reaches for something that only he can see. He’s frozen in place and in time as if he were taken from a photograph.
Sculpted from construction foam, chicken wire, bailing wire and a buck skeleton, he could have passed for one of Egypt’s animal-headed deities in the back room of his creator’s house on the outskirts of Dallas. Inspired by Cernunnos, the Celtic horned god of fertility, he looks like the zombified version of him, or possibly a prop from Hellraiser or The Wicker Man movies.
Cernunnos is just one of several bone art pieces Andrea Christensen has made available on Scrimshaw’s Facebook page. She also offers bone art costumes and jewelry for sale. She will be showcasing her bone art in late September at Haute Noir, a biannual dark fashion show at The Church in Dallas that celebrates alternative culture and drag.
Last year’s dark fashion show showcased designers such as Hell On Heels Couture, RITUAL Fashion and Elizabeth Rist and performers Kilo Kikii, RoseGold Blunt, LadyBoi, Dru Holiday and Mulan Alexander.
“(Cernunnos) just kind of came to me,” she says. “I had this skeleton rotting in the back, and I was like, ‘I want to make a prop. I want to do something different.' And I have a passion for mythology. So I just thought, What if I made a corrupted version of this popular Pan-like deity?”
A Wisconsin native, Christensen has been collecting bones since she was 6 years old. “I spent a lot of time alone and created my own worlds,” she says. “As a kid, I thought they were beautiful aesthetically as well as special because they were once alive.”
After high school, Christensen spent time on the road, looking for the right people and trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her art. She traveled around the country, landed in Seattle for a time and eventually followed a friend to Dallas in 2016.
“I ended up finding that here of all places,” she says from her home in Shady Shores, a small lakeside community where she lives with her roommates Andy Arrasmith and Emma Campbell, both of whom are horror artists.
At that time, Arrasmith and Campbell were running Dark Path, an outdoor haunted house in the dark forest near Hickory Creek in Denton where the haunted Goatman’s Bridge is located. Christensen went to work as a scare actor and enjoyed it, but she prefers working behind the scenes and making horror art for people. She hit it off with Arrasmith and Campbell, who owns Pink Mist FX and sings for The Unmarked Graves, and they ended up becoming roommates and started showing her how to sculpt masks and other FX props.
Shortly after her stint in the haunted house industry, Christensen decided to take the white tail deer bones she’d collected over the years from her father’s land in Michigan and weave them into her first fashion piece: an Egyptian Seth concept that resembles a rib-chest piece from one of the aliens in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.
“I just felt the need to be creative,” Christensen says of working in the haunted house industry. “It kind of inspired me, the macabre but elegant sort of thing.”
Christensen wore her first bone art piece out a couple of times to local clubs, and people started asking her about it and wanting to know if she could make one for them.
But finding enough bones to create more art pieces was problematic in this part of North Texas where most of the woodlands have disappeared under development. She started hitting up local hunters and a taxidermist not far from her house for bones.
The taxidermist thought her request for bones was weird and didn’t quite understand what she was doing. Eventually, she was able to explain it, and he started giving her discarded bones from bobcats, deer and other wildlife that didn’t survive the winter or a hunter’s bullet.
“(The art) is unique because it’s not something that I’m casting,” she says. “I can’t make duplicates. There is going to be variation working with natural material. It is a little more difficult and not many people do it.”
She spends about 72 hours or longer creating a piece and uses anywhere between 20 and 50 bones to create one. The number of bones usually depends on the section of anatomy that she is creating. For example, her full torso rib piece also has a portion of the spinal column included. She compares it to taxidermy articulations and tries to make it anatomically correct.
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Making bone art pieces for people caught the attention of the Haute Noir event organizers, and they invited her to showcase her bone art or “Scrimshaw,” as she calls it, at their upcoming fashion show in late September. She also sold some Scrimshaw pieces to the Cutting Edge, one of the best haunted houses in the U.S. and the world’s largest, according to its website.
About a week ago, Christensen went to work with the taxidermist not far from her home. She says the work is similar to FX special effects. She’s learned how to tan and mold the dead animals and stitch their pelts. Whenever someone brings in a fresh body, instead of disposing of the bones, she’ll keep them and clean them for her Scrimshaw art.
“All of this is self-taught,” Christensen says. “That is kind of the reason that I do it, too. I like to learn skills. I’m pretty artistic, and I learn effects here and there. But this was something that I could do without relying on anyone else. I kind of just figured it out.”