Amid offbeat boutiques, stores and resurgent craft beer hot spots, a must-see new gallery is attracting scores of oddity, antique, taxidermy art and curious “outsider art” lovers to Sue Moerder Skull Art in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia — right off 2nd Street and minutes from Old City and Fish Town. For Moerder, a former advertising art director turned tattoo artist/shop owner, skull assemblage art is the culmination of a lifelong quest for artistic fulfillment.
“I’ve always struggled with art to find the right fit — until now,” said Moerder, who majored in illustration at the University of the Arts (formally Philadelphia College of Art). “Whether it was advertising or tattoos, my art was always for somebody else. And while I loved the profession and my life at Moerder Tattoos & Gallery in New Jersey, tattooing permanent Art on someone was stressful. With skull assemblage art, everything flows naturally, and I enjoy the whole process.”
Moerder’s love of animal skulls started with tattooing them, and then one day after receiving a deer skull from a friend, she decided to paint it just for fun. “I found the experience totally immersive as my mind became lost in the art. I was hooked! My skull art evolved away from simply painting them… into larger and more intricate sculpted pieces. And my tattoo shop soon doubled as a gallery.”
After 18 years of doing tattoos, Moerder felt the timing was right this year for a new chapter in her art journey… exclusively creating skull assemblage art. “I find the entire process inspiring,” she said. “Every day is like a fun treasure hunt spent scouring antique shops and poking around scrapyards for missing pieces to my latest puzzle. It might be a door hinge or a rusting hunk of metal… there’s endless inspiration everywhere I go.”
When people step inside Moerder Skull Art, they’re awestruck by dozens of one-of-a-kind pieces to admire or acquire. From intricate sculptural lighting, mirrors, and wall pieces to animal skull sculptures both small and large, Moerder’s Skull Assemblage Art is a breathtaking amusement park for the senses.
“There’s so much art in a small space, people don’t know where to look first,” she laughs. “Sometimes I’ll invite visitors to check out my Basement Bone Lair. It’s jammed with countless animal skulls (all ethically sourced), including coyotes, deer, horses, cows, pigs, minks, and hedgehogs — and tons of odds and ends for new projects. I love letting people discover how amazing animal skulls are. My objective is always to make beautiful skulls even prettier and bring new life to the dead and discarded.”