My Mother with a Parrot
In his essay A Bird Tapestry, written for the Birdspace exhibition, David S. Rubin examines the many ways that artists, both classical and contemporary, incorporate birds into their work. In the essay Rubin states, " whether scrutinized in every detail or elevated as symbols for something profound or noble, birds have an impressive track record at holding the human attention span captive." But what is it that draws humans to birds? Rubin suggests the reason for this is that people see birds as part of humanity, which leads back to the notion of biophilia. In many ways the Birdspace exhibition is a typology of Biophilia values, from humans utilitarian to negatvistic relationship with birds.
There were several artists/ideas that I particularly enjoyed, the first being Ernesto Pujol's use of birds and their predicaments as metaphors for the temporality of life. Pujol states, " Life is fragile, vulnerable. And perhaps because it easier to talk about the short life of birds, and how they die from one moment to the next, I chose the visual essay as a metaphor for the brevity of human existence and the shock of death." Click link to view Pujol's installation The Silence of Songbirds.
This statement by Pujol made me think about this photograph that I took at my mother's house a few months ago.
Sitting on top of the television are my step-grandfather's ashes, a fake flower arrangement, the ashes of my mother's dog (Snickers), and the ashes of her bird(Pedro). In this photograph Snicker's and Pedro's ashes are equally as important as my step-grandfather's, which symbolizes not only the temporality of life for all species, but also the similarities that we have to other species, we all live and die.
I also really enjoyed Annette Messager's series of stuffed sparrows swaddled in garments, entitled The Boarders. For this series Messager knits garments for the sparrows much like a mother would knit a blanket/booties for her child. The sparrows therefore become surrogates for children, evoking in Messager's words the "growing pains" of "childhood." I was very touched by this piece and it made me think of Hemmingway's six word story, " For sale: baby shoes, never worn." There is a deep sadness in the metaphor of knitting a garment for the dead sparrow (which represents a child) and all that it implies.
Annette Messager, The Boarders
The final artist that stands out to me is Roni Horn and her use of the bird to explore identity. Horn having grown up with an androgynous name is conscious of mistaken assumptions that can be made when based on person's name. This experience is reflected in her photographic diptychs which pair very similar photographs of the back of a taxidermy birds heads. The subtle lighting differences between the images make it difficult for viewers to determine if they are looking at one bird, or two different ones. The birds are void of any defining male/female characteristics, or rather any characteristics at all, they are "androgynous. The photographs suggest the question: how much do you know about a person just from the material things such as a name, or the back of a head?
To continue on in my self awareness of my relationship with nature, I found all the items in my home that referenced birds and created a precarious little sculpture.