Clever Birds

  • Gaagaagi, The Raven, Screen Print 2021, 11” wide by 15” tall Gaagaagi, The Raven, Screen Print 2021, 11” wide by 15” tall
  • No Hoax, Corvids-19, Screen Print 2021, 15" W X 20" T No Hoax, Corvids-19, Screen Print 2021, 15" W X 20" T

Abel Contemporary Gallery Group Show: Clever Birds - Virtual Reception: Saturday, March 20th - 1 p.m.

I have two pieces in this group show and was particularly excited when the call was announced. I've long loved the Corvidae, the family of birds including the jays, crows, and ravens. My particular favorite is the gray jay but the two pieces I had time to make emphasize the raven and the group itself. I have some gray jay pieces in the works and if you attend the virtual reception I'll show you at least one of those.

Gaagaagi, the Raven was the first of these two I created. I continue to be impressed by Ravens and will never foreget one encounter with friends backpacking in the Porkies. We sat to rest and lunch on our hike out by way of the escarpment trail and a raven glided along the cliff edge in front of us and did a barrel roll with call as it passed us by. It was an assertive moment of showing off.

As it turns out there are 19 Corvids in North America and I thought it funny that Corvid and Covid sound so similar. My second piece is titled "No Hoax, Corvids-19" and so the exhibit held this year made serendipitous sense to me. The birds are unlabeled but organized in a similar arrangement to the Sibley Book of North American Birds overview page of Corvidae .

When I was in college and working as craft director at YMCA Camp St. Croix the camp was host to a problem crow caught in the Twin Cities. It was first brought to the Nature Center and I'd visit daily after everybody had left and stood in the far corner and talked to the bird avoiding overly direct eye contact. With patience and time we formed a bond. I didn't feed the bird, simply socialized. Eventually the bird was released but I had such a strong connection that it would fly to me and land on my forearm when I'd clap that arm with the opposite hand. I taught it to say Hello and eventually could direct it to fly ahead and wait for me. The downside to this bond was that it stole shiny objects from the art cart, knives, and even watches sometimes hiding under leaves immediately in front of us. When my future wife Faith came to visit during a break in camp sessions the crow we had named Knothead harassed Faith apparently disturbed by my connection to her. At this point the bird wasn't captive and the local crows harassed it. I left for school at the end of the summer and have no idea what became of Knothead although I've often wondered.