Bird lovers, you’ll find much to delight you at the “Feathered” exhibit now open at Sawtooth – from vivid feather masks to realistic carved birds to fanciful sculptures. Amongst gorgeous works of art, in fact right in the center of one, you’ll also find a hidden conservation story.
Lights Out organizers Allison Sloan, Carol Gearhart, Nita Colvin and I were excited when exhibit coordinator Sharon Hardin asked our Audubon chapter to collaborate with her on some events at a bird-themed art exhibit. What a perfect opportunity to share our story of bird-window collisions and how to prevent them, during fall migration.
At the opening reception Friday night, we displayed dead-bird photos to tell our story of birds crashing into glass windows downtown, and how turning out the lights on top of tall buildings can help birds migrate safely through our city.
To our surprise, at the exhibit there was another dead-bird photo — one we hadn’t brought with us. It was part of a work of art. Even more surprising, the dead bird, an American Woodcock, met its end by crashing into a window.
We surrounded artist Duncan Lewis to ask how he got the dead woodcock. “I didn’t think anyone would know what it was,” he said. He was even more surprised when Allison told him she found dozens of dead or injured woodcocks when she monitored New York City buildings for window casualties before moving to Winston-Salem six years ago.
Duncan explained that the idea for this piece began when he found a Cooper’s Hawk skeleton and feathers in a field near his home in Rural Hall, north of Winston-Salem. He decided to scan the feathers using equipment at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was studying art. On a rainy day, he drove to Greensboro and got out of his car with the hawk remains tucked into his trench coat.
As Duncan approached the UNCG art building, a bird flew by and crashed into the window right in front of him.
A member of what he described as “a reputable birding family,” with a birder mom and ornithologist sister, Duncan knew immediately that the bird was an American Woodcock. He didn’t know, though, that woodcocks are super-colliders when it comes to glass. They migrate at night, only 50 to 100 feet above the ground. Their eyes are large and placed weirdly high on their heads. In New York City, the woodcock is the ninth most common victim of building collisions.
Duncan tucked the woodcock into his trenchcoat along with the hawk feathers. And he created a compelling piece of art using their likenesses in a photographic collage.
Dead-bird photos and the story of how and why they died are part of the exhibit – and so is a solution you can implement at home. Sawtooth interns Lindsay Potter and Shamaz Denerson, both Salem College students, will lead workshop participants through the creation of bird-art window decals on Nov. 10 from 1-3 p.m. It’s designed as a parent-child workshop, but everyone is welcome. The workshop is free. Sign up by contacting Sawtooth School at 723-7395.
The Feathered exhibit runs through Nov. 16. It’s in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, 251 N. Spruce Street in downtown Winston-Salem. For more information, go to www.sawtooth.org or www.forsythaudubon.org.