Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The birth of mythical birds

Sea Bird (2007), Thread on paper, 10 x 9 inches

Hummingbird (2007), Thread on paper, 10 x 8 inches

Hummingbird, Ruby throated (2007), Thread on paper, 10 x 8 inches

Bird (2006), Thread on paper, 9¾ x 8 inches

I recently began a daily ritual of stitching as a way to enter my studio and begin work for the day. I have been sewing a series of birds, mostly mythical birds (related--and not--to the phoenix, quetzalcoatl, sankofa, thunderbird...i’m sure there are more...) that have become the palettes for my other stitched pieces (Monuments) as my hand learns about gestures, movements, colors, and the meanings and language of different stitch lengths. The daily sewing is like a prayer which sometimes happens quite quickly (well, for sewing...1-2 hours) or can take much, much longer (like most of the day).

It’s amazing how the sketches, the prayers, these birds become the work itself—the sketches have a kind of opening and vulnerability to them—they seem to speak so easily about what it is that I’m working towards, their language flows without being self-conscious. So they are not only reference points for larger work, but I have become very interested in the visual language of the birds themselves and the stories they tell. The writer Ana Lara recently asked me if I consider the stitches to be poems—they are in many ways, certainly a language I am trying to learn, trying to speak, sometimes broken, sometimes fluent, all the while working to understand the thread and its ever-changing form and relationship to land and the body and the story.

And so I find myself in Austin, TX. Yes, Texas! A city of birds, hundreds of grackles break through the sky each night and hang heavy in the trees. Parrots stream through the sky with their bright greens, nesting in the electrical towers all over the city. A police officer told me the parrot ancestry goes back several years, that they were once pet birds that escaped. Some say they were waylaid on a journey south one year. Or maybe they weren’t lost at all, but arrived here because they had to. They had to return, remember, re-live something important and powerful. And this land is old, there are fossils every where you step—over 300 million year-old fossils that you can hold in your hands. It’s incredible. And I almost forgot to mention the wild peacocks. I actually found a peacock feather the other day. Sometimes the sky opens that way.