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Freak Baby Museum of Dr. Takeshi Yamada at Feast of San Gennaro, Little Italy. September 16, 2010.  Photo courtesy of Takeshi Yamada

Freak Baby Museum of Dr. Takeshi Yamada at Feast of San Gennaro, Little Italy. September 16, 2010. Photo courtesy of Takeshi Yamada

At last year’s Feast of San Gennaro, ATZ photographed quite a few Coney Islanders who’d decamped with their games, sideshows and food stands to top off the season in Little Italy. One of the strangest sights at this year’s feast, which runs through September 26th, is Dr. Takeshi Yamada and his freak baby museum from Coney Island. The Neptune Avenue resident, whose studio is known as the Museum of World Wonders, has quite a family: There’s a Two-headed Baby, Mermaid Baby, Octopus Baby, Lobster Baby, Penguin Baby, and Three-headed Baby. “His” is not just a figure of speech–the six rogue taxidermy infants are made from Yamada’s own skin!

Yamada, who has an MFA in fine art from the University of Michigan School of Art and was Grand Champion of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists in 2006, considers his artwork “specimens” rather than examples of self expression. He uses a variety of natural materials to create his curiosities including some that might be considered controversial.

When we wrote about the babies last year, readers inquired how the artist collected his skin. Yamada replied: “During summer months, I shed skins multiple times, and I carefully remove them from my body, save them, and preserve them as ‘specimens’ for my Cabinet of Curiosities. I mounted my own skin specimens on the super-realistic replicas of freak human babies, which I created. In this way their body surfaces look really real, [more] than ones replicated in other materials (rubber, plastic, fiberglass, clay etc.). In loose terms, my freak babies are my clones.”

Yamada’s full explanation, titled “Creatures as Art Supplies,” can be read in the comments section of a post written last year, “Thru Dec 31 at Coney Island Library: Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities.” It remains one of ATZ’s top 25 posts, thanks to curiosity about such curiosities as a mummified six-fingered witch’s hand and a three-eyed human skull. The free exhibition of oddities and rogue taxidermy artwork is currently in its fifth year at the Mermaid Avenue library, a six-minute walk from Stillwell Terminal. But if you want to see the freak babies, head over to San Gennaro or pay a visit to the nursery at Coney Island’s Museum of World Wonders.

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November 29, 2012: Coney Island Taxidermist Takeshi Yamada in AMC Reality Show

December 8, 2011: Takeshi Yamada’s Jersey Devil Set for Bell House Taxidermy Contest

November 7, 2009: Thru Dec 31 at Coney Island Library: Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities

September 24, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Islanders and Carnies at San Gennaro

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Mummified Six Fingered Witch Hand & Giant Stag Beetle by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Mummified Six Fingered Witch Hand & Giant Stag Beetle by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For the past three years the glass cabinets at the Coney Island branch of the Brooklyn Public Library have showcased a rotating display of artwork that befits Coney Island’s history as host to oddities and curiosities from around the world. If you haven’t seen Takeshi Yamada’s long-running “Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities” yet, the exhibition is on view through Dec. 31 at the Mermaid Avenue library. [Dec. 19 Update: we received an e-mail from Yamada with the good news that the Cabinet of Curiosities show has been extended for another year –through December 31, 2010— at the Coney Island Library.]

Skull of the Sea Dragon by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Skull of the Sea Dragon by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When I stopped by during Halloween week, the curiosities included a mummified six-fingered witch’s hand, a cat frog (“There are about a dozen species of frogs with whiskers in this world”), samurai warrior horseshoe crab mask, three-eyed human skull, giant sea dragon’s skull (purportedly “discovered” by Yamada on the beach in 1790), a Nuclear Radiation Giant Stag Beetle of Bikini Atoll, and fancifully labeled cans of Coney Island brand King Tarantula and Coelacanth. “An Extra Fancy Living Fossil.” Oh, yum!…

T Rex Bone, NYC Giant Subway Bug & Coney Island Fancy Canned Goods by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

T Rex Bone, NYC Giant Subway Bug & Coney Island Fancy Canned Goods by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yamada, who has an MFA in fine art from the University of Michigan School of Art and is Grand Champion of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, considers his artwork “specimens” rather than examples of self expression. He uses a variety of natural materials to create his curiosities including some that might be considered controversial. The two-headed babies exhibited this summer in his “Baby Museum” at Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement area are rogue taxidermied artifacts made from his own skin, says Yamada. [Scroll down to “Comments” for details.]

Artist Takeshi Yamada's Freak Baby Show in Coney Island's Dreamland, Summer 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Artist Takeshi Yamada's Freak Baby Show in Coney Island's Dreamland, Summer 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Japanese-born artist and longtime Neptune Avenue resident is one of Coney Island’s most recognizable eccentrics. In the summer, you’re apt to find Yamada clad in a black tuxedo and Mardi Gras beads strolling the Boardwalk with his sea rabbit Seara, a taxidermied wonder with webbed feet and a mermaid’s tail. On November 15, he’ll be defending his Grand Master title at the 4th Annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest at the Bell House in Gowanus. In the meantime, you can visit Yamada in his studio and get a peek at his Fiji mermaid, two headed baby, dog-headed spider and other sideshow gaff art via this video from Brooklyn Cable Access TV

Takeshi Yamada’s “Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities”
Coney Island Library, 1901 Mermaid Ave (at W 19th St), Coney Island, Brooklyn, 718-265-3220. Through December 31, 2010 June 28, 2011. The library is a five-minute walk from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal. Check library hours here

This exhibition closed on June 28, 2011. Please visit Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders flickr photostream to view his work.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 29, 2012: Coney Island Taxidermist Takeshi Yamada in AMC Reality Show

December 8, 2011: Takeshi Yamada’s Jersey Devil Set for Bell House Taxidermy Contest

December 7, 2010: Art of the Day: Freak Taxidermy Skull by Takeshi Yamada

October 27, 2010: Oct 29 at Coney Island Library: Dragon and Mermaid Show & Tell with Takeshi Yamada

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