Friday, October 15, 2010

Nature Morte

The change of season from late summer to fall along with autumnal bounty from the farm also brings a touch of sadness.  Once vibrant flowers and trees prepare for the tilt of earth away from the sun.  Usually I enjoy this shift, but this year we were relaxing at home in Sag Harbor when a small thud brought us to the kitchen door where we found this little bird had dropped from the sky. 

Dead bird of unknown species, help us identify it!
October 2010 Sag Harbor, NY. Photo by Ellen Hanson

I wondered if this was an ominous sign and spent some time trolling the internet looking for meaning. At first I found nothing but silly sites with psychic readings for $10 but then I started turning up images of dead birds going way back.  Seems they've been a topic of fascination with artists for quite some time.

Albert Pinkham Ryder  Dead Bird  c. 1890

The catalog of The Phillips Collection, The Eye of Duncan Phillips: a Collection in the Making  calls Dead Bird  a "powerful image," noting that it "explores a recurrent illusory theme: the coexistence of the corporeal and the ethereal."

John Singer Sargent Studies of a Dead Bird 1878
Turns out you can buy this John Singer Sargent painting on the world wide web for only $189 (oh and I have a bridge to sell you.)

This appreciation has persisted into modern work as well.
  Candace Bohannon on her Dead Bird "Though I go out walking in the woodlands often, it is rare for me to come across a recent carcass like this.  The forest teems with creatures that dine on such fare, and I just happened to be the quickest scavenger that day."

Candace Bohannon Dead Bird (one day study)
2010 Oil on Board  

Petah Coyne Canto VIII, 2008
 This taxidermic bird sports a feathered peplum, pearl-headed hatpins and cable bolts

Because of their connection to the sky, birds have often been thought of as a supernatural link between the Heavens and the Earth.

I don't know whether we had an undelivered message from the spirit world or a prosaic reminder of the impermanence of life, but as a next step in my meditation on this topic I plan to purchase some guidance


Beth said...

I'm no ornithologist but that poor thing looks like a sparrow to me. If I got it right do I win the "John Singer Sargent?"

ellen hanson designs said...

That item has sold out - this embroidery sampler is the replacement gift ; ) (paste and copy into your browser)

R. Drolet said...

Just this morning, we found a dead squirrel on our front porch. Less beautiful, for sure!