Most cities and towns don’t have a place to go and buy artistically enhanced taxidermy, antique medical equipment, or animal bone art. One man in St. Paul, Minnesota, saw that hole and filled it.
Cameren Torgerud wanted two things: to have a gallery in which to display his and other artists’ work, and to share his passion for oddities with his hometown. He opened Studio Payne Art Gallery and Oddities Shop in June, 2016, to kill two birds with one stone, after which he probably turned the two birds into taxidermy art he could display and sell.
Studio Payne is the first place of its kind in the Saint Paul area. It is half oddities shop, half artist workspace and gallery in which Torgerud hosts workshops and themed exhibitions.
Many of the animal-related pieces in the shop are made from dead animals Togerud finds in the woods or by railroad tracks. He has 2,500 flesh-eating beetles to clean the bones and some bones are sold as they are, some become jewelry or, in one case, a deer vertebrae lamp. There are crystals and stones for New Age types and vintage Hot Wheels and old car fuses and advertisements for car aficionados.
He sells the teeth of various animals, including humans, various works of taxidermy, some artistically enhanced, fossils, antique medical equipment, animals and animal parts preserved in jars of alcohol, and curious artifacts like a prosthetic leg and an old Boy Scout first aid kit. In addition to the beetles, he is joined in his store by Franklin, a cat with six toes on one front paw and seven on the other, a tarantula, and Zeus, a red-tailed boa constrictor.
Torgerud thinks of his own skull collection as a way to get close to animals, and hopes that in selling parts of animals he can inspire curiosity in his customers, and maybe teach them some biology as well.
Update as of November 2019: The physical storefront will be closing around mid-December.