The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art
3rd floor North, American Art Museum
(8th and F Streets, N.W.)
October 31, 2014 – February 22, 2015
Birds have long been a source of mystery and awe. Today, a growing desire to meaningfully connect with the natural world has fostered a resurgence of popular interest in the winged wonders that surround us daily. Abundant and accessible, birds are a ubiquitous reminder of our natural and cultural origins. Whether strolling on a city street or along a woodland path, we need only direct our gaze skyward to witness a primal passage that has captivated humankind for millennia. Birds not only carry the memory of the earth as it once existed but they point to the continuity of human activity, serving as a link to our past and a harbinger of our future.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art brings together more than a dozen artists who employ avian imagery as a conduit for understanding contemporary culture. Unlike historical examples of avian art that focus on the science of birds or their symbolism in religion, myth and legend, artists today are turning their attention to the “life of the skies” as a way to interrogate and interpret our own earthbound existence. At its core, this exhibition is not about birds, but about what birds tell us about human behavior. The exhibition explores how we identify and describe birds; what they reveal about our evolving relationship with the environment, and our competing impulses to control and conserve nature; the significance birds have in our imaginative and emotional lives as emblems of the great American wilderness; why the search for avian life has become a sacred ritual in secular society, and how it effects the way we see ourselves as individuals and as a society.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art will include 50 paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures from public and private collections. Featured artists include David Beck, Rachel Berwick, Lorna Bieber, Barbara Bosworth, Joann Brennan, Petah Coyne, Walton Ford, Paula McCartney, James Prosek, Laurel Roth, Fred Tomaselli, and Tom Uttech.
The exhibition is organized by Joanna Marsh, The James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Rollin W. King, Caroline Niemczyk, Debbie Frank Petersen, and Holly and Nick Ruffin.