In the Ojai Valley, where eccentricity and creativity flourish, Testa wants to be taken seriously as an artist, something akin to a sculptor. As a taxidermist, he aims to take dead animals and infuse them with the illusion of life, vitality--even a bit of defiance.
Testa bristles at those who suggest his animals are "stuffed." They aren't. In fact, they're usually just hides. Taxidermy supply businesses sell models--called mannikins--of pretty much any animal that crawls, flies or swims. The hides usually fit over the models like gloves.
Taxidermist Chuck Testa, 45, of Meiners Oaks wants to be taken seriously as an artist. He stands in his workshop, which is brimming with a realistic collection of African Cape buffalo, a lion, boars, bears and snakes.; PHOTOGRAPHER: BRYAN CHAN / Los Angeles Times; Testa fits a cleaned fox hide over a form called a mannikin. He tries to infuse his work with vitality. He's done work for private clients and natural history museums.; PHOTOGRAPHER: BRYAN CHAN / Los Angeles Times