Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Bird in my Garden

Occasionally, I have a real bird in my garden, the little ones that come to peck at the ground in hopes of food, and the big ones--such as this wild turkey--who come for a rest or perhaps a dust bath:

But now I have another kind of bird in my garden, a ceramic bird made by my old friend Christy Hengst.

Christy and I were friends and dormmates for a year at Amherst, and though we have lots of friends in common, and I've heard bits and pieces of what she's been up to over the years, we hadn't seen each other since graduation almost 21 (!) years ago. So, I was delighted earlier this spring when I found out that Christy was going to be at Amherst for a few days as a visiting artist and that she was bringing with her her most recent project, a flock of ceramic birds, silk-screened with photos and text. While she was here, she guest taught a class and gave a lecture, and the next day, the birds had a day-long "landing" on top of Memorial Hill.

This is the way that Christy describes her birds:
"They are, in a sense, carrier pigeons, as the forms carry images, text, and other documents, which have been printed with cobalt blue and fired into the surface. The message they bear is an exploration of the beautiful and the horrible side by side. Originating with the shock and dismay I felt as the US government began the war with Iraq, and expanding to consider the phenomenon of war in general, the questions posed by the birds are about the humanness of us all. How we are connected, and also the unthinkable ways in which that bond is disregarded."
You can read her fuller text about the project here.

These birds are well traveled--they've been to various places in the US including Central Park and the Mall in Washington; to Europe--they've landed in Germany, where Christy's husband is from, and in front of the cathedral at Chartres in France; and even the Galapagos, where one went diving. (There's a very cool photo of this on Christy's website.) If you want to read about their visit to Amherst, it's written up here.

I saw Christy at her lecture, and the next day, I went to see her on Memorial Hill. It was the end of the day, and she was packing the birds up--they travel in 4 large heavy suitcases. She mentioned that one had broken in transit and that she was going to throw it out. I was rather bold, and I asked her for it, for my garden. And then, in a very Christy-like moment, she said, "But I don't know if that one is pretty enough for you."

And while it's true that this bird was maybe not one of the prettiest (some of them are quite lovely), I was happy to be able to have a bird for my garden at all. I glued the broken end of the tail back on, and now I'm figuring out where the bird might like to live in the garden. I tested a few different places:

Maybe as more flowers come in, its new home will become more apparent. Meanwhile, it was lovely to see Christy again after so many years, and I love that I have a reminder of her--and of who we both were all those years ago when we knew each other better--in my garden, among the flowers, company, perhaps, for any wild turkey who happens to wander over for a visit.


Alisa Bowman said...

What a nice concept. I don't have too many decorations in my garden, but this one looks intriguing, mostly for the symbolic value.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to have something made by someone you know. I like the blue color.

Peggy Bourjaily said...

I love the concept and the fact that every time you look at it you'll think of you're old friend.