April 06, 2014

Gallery Birds: Sara Angelucci and the Passenger Pigeon

Preface: Some time ago, a friend sent me a link about a museum employee 'birding' The Met. I thought it was interesting and all, but I didn’t seriously think I’d want to do anything like that myself. But now I have a blog. And I have to fill it with interesting and original(ish) things. So here we are.
A new series about me 'birding' the art world.

Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct) and Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct), Sarah Angelucci, 2013
The story of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction at the hands of hunters one hundred years ago has been told numerous times -- I certainly don’t need to do it again. You can find a fantastic summary of it here (and I also recommend Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article about how some scientists want to Jurrasic Park the Passenger Pigeon)

The Passenger Pigeon Hunt, A. Plamandon, 1853
At the AGO right now there is a great bird-related art moment to be seen. On one wall of a gallery in the Canadian Historical wing is Antoine-Sébastien Plamandon’s The Passenger Pigeon Hunt (right) which in the artist's bland, academic style depicts three boys celebrating the rewards of a successful pigeon hunt. Plamandon may not have been the most skilled painter, but he certainly captures the zeitgeist of the pigeon hunting era through the pride in the boys' faces and the cloud of Passenger Pigeons fading to infinity in the sky.

Directly facing off against Plamandon’s work, on the opposite wall, are two works (pictured above) from recent artist-in-residence Sarah Angelucci’s Aviary series: Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct) and Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct). Angelucci’s brilliant take on Victorian cartes-de-visite combines traditional portraits of long-dead people with the avifaunal victims of the era’s attitudes. In the artist’s own words:
“The same colonial enterprise that drove the Victorians to expand their rule to a quarter of the world’s land and a fifth of its population, spurred a sense of callous entitlement over its creatures, hunted for sport and captured for the pleasure of entertainments. With an increasing desire for imported goods, there came too an avid demand for exotic birds, to be held in aviaries, or preserved by taxidermists.”
To see more of Angelucci’s work and the Aviary series I’ve included a few more images after the jump, but please visit her site here: http://www.sara-angelucci.ca/

Aviary (Sage Thrasher/endangered), Sara Angelucci, 2013

Aviary (Barn Owl/endangered), Sara Angelucci, 2013

Aviary (Eskimo Curlew/extinct), Sara Angelucci, 2013