The Bird is the Word, Is Life Safer in Cages?

The  Bird is the Word. The genesis of this piece was a delicate glass bird with a broken head. Instead of throwing it out, the thrift store gave it to me when I asked for it. I carried it home and sat it on my work bench where I stared at it and thought about glass birds for a few days. It needed to be covered, the first layer of meaning over our glass skeletons.

I started pulling pieces out of my stash of emphemera, old early 20th century broken-spined McGuffy Readers and a book of tunes from the same era. All dreadful old parlor piano music that  seems to feature people who have died, drowned, been lost, pined away,  or are otherwise Croaked, but still haunting the living through these lugubrious tunes.

The Readers are a fascinating glimpse into a morally upright past in which God is on every page of school textbooks. Children are directed down the path of righteousness with tales that feature bad dogs, bad things and some of the most overblown hyperbole ever. I do so love the Victorians, even their poetry is decorated with the equivalent of literary doilies. All of this literary excess got me thinking about the American Political Process we are in the throes of dealing with at the moment. We are suffering from our own literary doilies in Congress and we seem to be heading backwards in time at a high rate of speed, undoing advances in social justice and women’s rights in which many women seem to be complicit. I find this deeply disturbing because we burned bras and draft cards for a reason back in the day….

I chose snippets about birds and flight and morals. My favorites include, “Winged Worshippers” and “Joy Seldom Weaves a Chain.” The entire bird is collaged in Bird Words and on her crown she wears antique rhinestones and 3 feathers I found in a ghost town in Northern California.  I confess, I thought of the the 1% when I constructed her ‘diamond’ necklace from chandelier pieces.

This bird is mounted on an upside down antique martini glass that has her heart trapped inside. Inside the heart is a tiny copy of a photograph of my great great grandmother in a feather hat, and the words “She loved diamonds most.” The heart is permanently mounted on the cage bottom and sealed under the glass which is also circled with antique rhinestones. No one will ever know what is really in her heart.

The floor of the cage is a cut out artists canvas board that has been collaged top and bottomwith appropriate sheet music–for this bird to sing. “Diamonds” are scattered on the cage floor. There are four triangular mirrors marking the points of the compass and on them is a stamped word. The four points together say, “What Will She Do.”

I love the old cage I found. It has been wire brushed and sealed with clear sealer to protect it in its current state of tasteful decay.  The cage can be unclipped from the base and the bird can stand alone too.  I designed it to hang or stand on a table for display. I worked to make sure it looks simple but the assembly was incredibly complex and layered and a lot of intellectual fun too. The bird has hands instead of wings which too me was the obvious choice.

A lot of what I build has hands, a head or legs, so I have quite a macabre stash of ‘body parts’ in my studio. These are models of old Italian Santos hands I found in a little shop in Seattle and they fit perfectly with my intention.  This bird, we might like to call her Ann, actually, holds a chain in both hands with a key and a lock. She can open her own prison if she wants to do so, but will she?

Her Master’s key.

Her Master’s lock. I love that it says “Slaymaker.”

An antique cut glass saltshaker has a heart mounted on it instead of its top and inside it saysthree times, ‘Her Story Repeats Itself.’ This hangs from the cage top like a bird feeder might,  adds a pop of color and repeats the heart motif.

Over the cage top is a woman’s hand holding on to the cage. The cuff is hand-crocheted lace that has been stitched over a copper band and there is a blingy ‘cuff link’ on the wrist. I love, love, love this old ring. It was given to me in a stash of broken jewelry and it was obviously much worn and loved as it is scratched thoroughly. It was missing a few little stones which I remounted and I think it is perfect on this odd hand. 

I love the saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” I kind of wish that hand would slap a few faces and say, WAKE UP! This hand is mounted with a copper ‘bolt’ that allows a chain mounting to hang the cage while keeping the hand stable. 

For me the thing that finishes the piece and says it all succinctly is the Yevgeny Yevtushenko quote on the wrist back. “He who is born in a cage, yearns for a cage.”.

The finished piece, not weatherproof, but photographed in my garden.

Another view of the finished piece.The Bird is the Word.
















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