What is it about birds? Maybe during this plague year you've had more time to observe them. Birds became the theme for the Partners show in January and February 2021, reminding us of the life that continues above and beyond our human struggles.
Sometimes birds are enchanted messengers. In Miriam Davis' linocut, a caged bird escapes into the freedom and possibility of the open air. Carolyn King's wood chip and grass birds chat with each other, trading news in chirps and trills. They might be ravens, the smartest of all birds, having fun posing for a human observer.
Two partners took inspiration from the migration of birds. Mina Cohen was inspired by the book "Migrations" by Charlotte McConaghy about arctic terns who have the longest migration of any creature on earth—18,641 miles round trip from the north pole to the south pole. Her painting looks at the migration of birds and humans. The film documentary "Winged Migration" informed Arlene Reiss' painting of birds as not only physical beings but also manifestations of the spirit, of hope, of the presence of lost loved ones.
And what about wings, those astounding appendages that allow birds to soar and fly? Pamela Hahn's piece captures the movement of wings when the chimney swift she rescued was released and swooped up by a flock of swifts at dawn. The many feathers that Karen Fenley collected over the years were pressed into joint compound to create a wall relief that is an homage to her fascination with feathers.
Have you ever seen a flock of starlings, thousands of them, swooping and shapeshifting in the sky? Rachel Binah caught that sense of coordinated constant motion in her black and white paper piece. A video of this phenomenon can be viewed by clicking on this link.
Bird species are an essential part of the health of their environment. The endangered Northern spotted owl stares out from Virginia Sharkey's monotype, influenced by the struggle between logging rights and environmental rights. These owls live in the redwood forests of the Northwest, including Mendocino County, and their numbers signify a healthy ecosystem. Ginny Stearns features the Oxpecker, who dines on the insects plaguing antelopes, rhinos, and other animals of sub-Saharan Africa.
The spirit of birds is the subject of Kathy Carl's monotype, which captures the rustle and sway of their stealthy passage through the tall weeds. Carolyn Schneider's raven-headed being looks out from a room, not stealthy at all.
Kristen Otwell created little gray birds out of the scales from Gray Pine female cones, the largest cones of all pine trees. Hiking on a bird watching trip, she saw the disintegrating cones from burned trees, and recognized a certain "birdness" that appears in her shadow box piece.
Birds are the dinosaurs of our time, living among us singing, flying, squawking, perching in trees, nesting, gathering food, teaching their babies to fly. They scold and warn and converse. Some we even eat, along with their eggs. They are the colorful noisy flying carpet taking us out of our earthbound lives.