Thursday, March 6, 2008

I am loving this unfinished painting I'm making with acrylic and cut rice paper on panel:
I collect old photographs of strangers that I find on ebay or in antique shops.  For the past few years I've been playing around with these images in my work.  I've tried recreating the photos in gouache in several of my paintings, but I haven't loved those results.  This past summer I worked with Middle School students at the Arlington Center for the Arts, building a faux Egyptian tomb.  I liked drawing Horus, the bird-head god whom Egyptians believed would guide them into the afterlife.  This past December I started playing around with this idea of the half human/half bird,  combining field guide pictures with people from my photo collections.  I loved the results: these sort of absurd domestic deities.  They also feel like an exciting homage to the original photographs, without being reproductions.
I've put this series on hold for a bit, while I focus on my other ideas.  In a related story, I have also recently discovered that a billion other contemporary artists stick bird heads on human bodies.  Almost every new person I talk to about this series tells me about yet ANOTHER bird head artist.  This brings up an interesting point: when, as an artist, do you bail out of an idea, when you discover that it's "already been done"?  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  On the one hand, I feel that we should just embrace the fact that there are no new ideas and make our art with reckless abandon.  At the same time, there are times when another artist's work will inspire me to abandon an idea.  Not in a bad way, but because I feel too influenced by the work, like my authenticity has been tainted.  But my bird head women came about in such a personal way, and making them is so gratifying to me, that I don't question their authenticity.  I think it also helps that I became aware of these other contemporary bird head artists AFTER I was already enamored with my own images.

Here's what I did yesterday:
Ahhh! It looks like the bunny's going to get mauled!
I made these critters to cut out and collage onto the Birdwoman series I've been working on.  I played around with their arrangement:
This rabbit is too light.  I'm going to give him some more contrast later today.

I think the snow bunting may be the wrong choice for this image, which is supposed to represent the woman transforming into the bird.  More color contrast between bird, drawing and background may make the illusion more readable.  I used a red cardinal in the last piece, and it was much more successful.  The background is very purple-gray.  Perhaps a yellow bird is the way to go....gotta love that basic color theory!


bigmamakatz said...

I am loving it, too! Viva la birdwoman!

Kaetlyn Wilcox said...

Big Mama!
I'm glad you like birdhead woman! There will eventually be some more in that painting, peaking out from behind the trees. Can't you just see birdhead women roaming the Wellesley campus: hiding in the trees near the frog pond, hanging out at Tupelo Point?