The pet world seems to be undergoing something of an artistic renaissance. Inspired by a London couple’s recent DIY gerbil museum, Dallas-based student and actor Jill Young decided to fashion an art gallery of her own—this time, tailored to her pet reptile, a 5-year-old crested gecko named the Mayor.
Assembled from a painted cardboard box, Young’s pint-sized museum replica features tasteful parodies of five famous artworks rejiggered to feature reptiles in place of humans. Like the gerbil-centric institution it’s modeled after, the reptilian institution displays remixes of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
But Young also cooked up some unique cultural homages: American Gecko, a nod to Grant Wood’s American Gothic; a version of Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, superimposed with a lizard silhouette; and Birth of Gecko, an animalistic spoof on Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. (In addition to the two aforementioned paintings, the gerbil museum boasted versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.)
GECKO MUSEUM! GECKO MUSEUM! The Mayor liked it so much he couldn’t help crossing the velvet rope pic.twitter.com/eMCvO8c6qR— jill (@jillisyoung) April 7, 2020
Speaking with Valentina Di Liscia of Hyperallergic, Young explains that she curated these titles, which span a range of artistic genres, to suit the Mayor’s “refined and eclectic taste.”
By all accounts, the gecko got some glee out of touring the exhibition on opening night (most geckos are nocturnal), though Young says he had his favorit artworks: “The Mayor was particularly fond of my American Gothic spoof, American Gecko,” she tells Hyperallergic. “I guess he’s in an American Modernism phase.”
Like Pandoro and Tiramisù—the London gerbils graced with their own museum—the Mayor quickly took a tactile approach to art appreciation. Ignoring the “velvet ropes” (red string) that Young had installed, the reptile wriggled right up to the walls to get some feet-on experience of the paintings.
“He was just breaking rules from moment one,” Young tells Alistair Mason of PA Media.
Climbing on the artworks, she says, was probably “his way of appreciating them.”
As the London-based couple told Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic earlier this month, the two gerbils—9-month-old brothers—were art virgins prior to the gallery premiere. But by all accounts, their first museum sojourn was a positive experience: “They much enjoyed the display and paid close attention to the quality of the gallery’s props,” the pair said.
Some of the museum’s props, however, sustained some damage. Cultured yet illiterate, the gerbils didn’t heed “the sign to advise the visitors to not chew” on the institution’s furniture.
As Young tells Hyperallergic, her institution is unlikely to trigger any rivalries, but she hopes it will encourage other pet owners around the world to follow suit.
“Every pet deserves a cultural outing,” she says.
To help this burgeoning market along, Young posted a video of her museum-manufacturing process on TikTok. She is also selling a printable, gecko-themed museum kit on Etsy for those living at the crossroads of the art- and reptile-inclined. That intersection may be small—but perhaps that’s only for now.