Letters from the Birds, 2020-2021
I am drawn to birds, their sense of immediacy and dependence on nature. I am comforted by their songs, their arrival signaling the change of seasons and their instinct to build nests. When the pandemic hit I took solace from the birds at the feeder by my kitchen table where I spent hours navigating teaching from home and helping my two young children learn via screens. Without our typical schedules of school and outside activities as markers of time, it seemed to slow down. Like many we consoled ourselves by long walks in the woods and more time than ever in the backyard. The birds still felt comforting and unchanged, despite the radical transformation that had happened to so many other aspects of our lives.
My encaustic collage work incorporates old letters, maps, wallpaper, magazines and books. I often include snippets of letters, mostly from family who are no longer with us and delight in bringing back their handwriting, voice and memory into a new space with the vibrant, present birds, a constant reminder that the past is always with us. I was cheered by rereading old letters from my grandparents and reminded myself of the challenging times in history they had lived through. Often I found a line or a phrase in an old letter that resonated with me. “You will have a time”, a line from a letter written by my godfather, seemed especially relevant in the midst of thaty spring’s isolation and uncertainty. Unable to sleep and without a normal teaching schedule, I found myself staying up later and later, each night creating paintings featuring images of the globe from my childhood encyclopedias and constantly cutting out the shapes of houses. Our self-imposed isolation left me feeling stranded on my own island, with the occasional communication with others doing the same thing through a screen or a distant, masked hello to neighbors walking up the street. I began incorporating pieces of string connecting the houses, separate yet bound by this shared global experience. The birds, embodying nature’s strength and impartial disposition, grew bigger and more threatening, yet their presence was still a reminder that the natural world would continue to remain largely unchanged and that life might one day feel as it had before the pandemic.