Hi. I used to use this blog a lot more than i do now. I don't agree with much of what i've posted here, but such is the nature of time. :) My instagram & facebook are likely to be more up to date.

"The Bird of Babylon" complete! (mostly...)

>> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

first, a money shot... (notice the piles of materials and tools below it!) this shot was taken after a 24+ hour art binge before the visionary arts festival...

second, a note on photography. this bird suffers a bit from under-documentation. for example, the only shots i have of the finished bird were taken in a severely sleep-deprived state, or by attendants of the arts festival. some day i'll have a professional photographer shoot it, but that will have to wait. also, i've marked all but the first two photos with a creative commons license... please link back here for any use... the bird says thanks!

The Bird of Babylon... it's a piece that's been knocking around my head for a while, so it's great to have it out of there and in the world... basically i've been collecting scraps of colorful trash for years in the hopes of making something out of them... when i found a huge cache of fake flowers tossed unceremoniously in the muddy landfill of a local cemetery, the piece just clicked... i could use the flower petals to make bird feathers...

i brought all the junk i had collected, along with a rotary tool and some knives, to my friend laurie trok's studio... she has a similar interest in junk and found materials, so it seemed a good environment to work on the piece. after an hour or so sorting through the bits and bones, it seemed obvious laurie should help with the project. while i brought her the idea of making a bird out of trash, she is an equal author of the final object...

at first we thought we could make something like a bas relief... mounted flat on a wall... the first sketches of the head reflected this idea. but upon playing with the stems from the fake flowers, it became clear that we had great material to make a complete sculpture. we made a simple armature out of just the stems pieces, but eventually created a stronger structure using four flower arrangement stands also found in the cemetery...





the legs, feet and interior structure are fairly visible in this shot.


the structure is mostly held together by the stems, a plastic coated bundle of posable wire, however we also used a good amount of obsolete intercom wire i pulled out of the penn avenue basement. the poking out ends of the stem wire and the intercom wire provided a useful base to attach the old knit cotton t-shirts for use as skin. by tightening the shirts into the sculpture, we created a convex and concave musculature...



the inner torso of the bird is lined with bright red leather from a golf bag... we hoped to make a visible interior area of the bird, with a smaller bird inside, and still may...


laurie knotted together the fabric around the tail to create a very naturalistic rendition of that area.


we then began experimenting with various feather making techniques. i was convinced that i would be able to sew the feathers together with the intercom wire, but this proved incredibly difficult and time consuming. laurie saved the bird with the strong suggestion to get over the fetishization of found materials and use some hot glue! we glued the feathers to each other, onto strips, and directly to the fabric skin...


the finished product is largely a concoction of the wire fabric and petal/feather technique, but other parts of the bird required some different techniques... the neck was created using some iridescent ribbon found at the cemetery, and was stuffed with some of the uglier flowers... the head was assembled using a combination of cut automobile panel, flowers and other trash wired together through drilled holes...


this shot shows a little of the front of the wings, which we left mostly exposed to show the armature... it also shows our pictures of the anhinga, the real bird we based the anatomy of our bird off...

this back shot above is high resolution - click here to enlarge!


this head shot above is high resolution - click here to enlarge!

a face only the artists could love! notice the shattered lighter used as the upper beak flap. my wife laura suggested we retain some of the ugliness of the trash and i hope to integrate more of that idea in the finished product... so that the piece says more than "trash into treasure". there is something important to me about the beauty and ugliness of "babylon", both as a reference to modern culture and to it's opposite, "paradise"...




this shot shows the top of the log we stood the bird on. the log is scarred by chainsaws, and seems an apt perch. the feet, claws and legs will be finished when we do the final installation of the bird wherever it finds a home. we've got some really sweet pieces for the claws... fierce!


me posing with the bird for scale.

so while there is some touching up and more details to add, like the feet, the inner chamber and the final perch... the bird exists now... the theory behind it has changed and evolved through the process, through collaboration and will change even more in the final presentation, but there is no escaping the image of a phoenix arising out of the excesses of babylon, the natural world insisting upon space to spread it's wings...

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