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Matthew Batty | The Birdsell Project

Matthew Batty

In the early history of Indiana, beaver pelts were often used in place of currency. By 1840, the beaver population in Indiana had been close to extinction, making the value of their pelts worth as much as $100. In 1935, the Indiana Department of Conservation brought a few breeding pairs of beaver from Wisconsin and reintroduced them back to the Indiana’s ecosystem. Presently, beaver are found in almost every county of the Hoosier state.

Intrigued by the early settlement of Michiana and its relationship to the fur trade, back in a time often romanticized by the writers of history and American mythologies like Daniel Boone. Nostalgic views towards trapping and hunting has begun to reflect concepts of communing with nature as well as its commodification, invoking the past in critique of the present.

It is said that the earliest forms of society gathered around the need to hunt for food to better the odds. So, what do we owe to the traditions of trapping/hunting? How does it fit into the 21st century? The rise of factory farms both for food and fur stains our relationship with nature, the millions of dollars contributed by hunters and trappers towards nature conservation, the gruesome, barbaric act of treating living things as a natural resource for us to harvest, or the reverence for the preservation of a tradition that has defined humanity. Advocates and Opponents on the topic, both make sound arguments. Each side riddled with their own flaws and strengths. I seek to create a dialogue between these two different positions with the intention that through understanding the other, each side can meet in the middle, the grey area, the “Michiana,” the in between.

Groundhog pelt (skinned from found road kill), screen-prints of skinned groundhog on hand-made paper and mylar, found photographs, salt, animal traps, furring boards, construction fencing, donated beaver and bobcat pelts, castoreum glands, alcohol, beaver lure, discarded lawn trimmings, used hunting/trapping licenses, old DNR hunting and trapping guides, my first pellet gun, hatchet, fleshing knife, various found animal skulls and bones, Hunting: Opposing Views by Dawn Laney, The Art of Hunting by Norman Strung, 100 Years of Hunting, American Folklore, Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America: An Anthology by David Leeming and Jake Page, American Folklore by Richard M. Dorson, Fox fire series, Actual Air by David Berman, Undermining by Lucy Lippard various other books concerning topics of hunting and American mythology, Air Conditioning Units, found materials from the basement, T.V, video, and found video of Wild America: Watching Wildlife special.


Matthew Batty was born in Louisiana, and grew up in Florida. He attended Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida and received his BA in Graphic Design in 2007. After some years of traveling and working odd jobs, he returned to achieve a BFA in studio art. He has recently moved to Bloomington, Indiana as a candidate for an MFA degree at Indiana University. He is preparing to start his 2nd year, where he will began to teach Intro to Printmaking, and he will also be co-curating the Fuller Projects, an art gallery in Bloomington, Indiana.

Trapping the In Between