Independent curator Abigail Satinsky contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in creating a functional birdhouse for Meadow Mansions, and arts initiative for Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The works were displayed for a month inside the historic 18th century mansion Mount Pleasant, and then moved to permanent locations outside "...to help attract birds to the adjoining meadow of East Fairmount Park and raise awareness about these critical habitats. These newly designed bird houses will then be installed in the Fairmount Park system’s meadows to entice nesting species and serve as sign-posts for park visitors reminding them that the meadows host families of birds, among other creatures and the importance of these ecosystems."
Artists were invited to create a birdhouse dedicated to a species listed by the Audubon Society, but I asked if I could potentially choose a species no longer on that list, the extinct Carolina Parakeet. The birdhouse reminds of of their missing place in this ecosystem, while providing shelter and protection for living species.
The text on the wall of the exhibit reads:
Before the arrival of Europeans, millions of brilliantly-colored Carolina Parakeets (Conuropsis carolinensis) inhabited the Eastern United States, flocking in gorgeously colored clouds. Today, through human activity including hunting, deforestation and deliberate mass-killings, they are extinct. Though these beautiful birds may once have nested nearby—few know to mourn their absence.
Surrounded by sculpted parakeet wings, Protector references many-winged cherubim, whose role in the Abrahamic tradition was to protect the Garden of Eden. Protector tells of what is missing—and reminds us of the threat to many of our living native birds, whose populations are also in serious decline.
Photo credit: Corey Chao