Faces of Kansas City: Dead fish create beautiful art - KCTV5

Faces of Kansas City: Dead fish create beautiful art

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There's a local artist who sees great beauty in dead fish.

Artist Fred Mullett focuses on the art of Gyotaku. When translated, that means fish rubbing.

The fish in Mullett's studio are vibrant with color and texture, but that is the end product. The art of Gyotaku begins with a slimy dead fish as you apply ink to one side, cover it with paper and then begin rubbing to produce a perfect reproduction.

Mullett was in disbelief when he first saw Gyotaku, but now, decades later, it's his life.

"This is a tactilely interactive vulcanized tool for the replication of graphic images, better known as a rubber stamp," he said.

Once the fish rubbing has been transferred to paper, Mullett reduces the size and begins the process of creating a rubber stamp which is an exact replica of that slimy dead fish.

He has a vast inventory of all different kinds of rubber stamps.

"I've made 47 cents after all of that work. I'm rolling in the bucks here man, I want to tell you," he said with a laugh.

But the money isn't in the rubber stamps, it's in the art the stamps create.

"If you think about fact that these things are print-making devices, you can turn around and arrange on a piece of paper multiple prints of whatever this image is or, if you have something with texture in it, you can visually texturize the paper," Mullett said.

He said the real beauty of using rubber stamps to create art is that the possibilities are endless.

"These are the stamps. If you feel it, you can feel the bumps. That is melted plastic," Mullett said.

He works on much more than just paper.

"Right on a cloth bag, best shopping bag in town," he said.

Mullett likes to teach art almost as much as he likes creating it.

"This gives me the chance to talk to people about how the human eye perceives depth, values, focal point. I ingenuously refer to him (holds up print) as the velvet Elvis of dead rubber fish," he said.

One of Mullett's largest nature prints came about after he used the Gyotaku method on a full-sized octopus.

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