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It’s a dream we’ve all had, isn’t it? To fly? In an inspired group show curated by the Griffin Museum of Photography’s Paula Tognarelli, Aviary explores the free and the caged, the funny and felled, the genuine and fantastical world of birds. In a fitting salutation to springtime, more than sixty photographers take flights of fancy in the Griffin’s satellite gallery at Boston’s Lafayette City Center Passageway in Downtown Crossing, on view through July 14th, 2017. There will be a free public reception with some of the artists on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 from 4:30 – 6:00pm.
Wild birds are hard to catch, both physically and photographically, which makes “decisive moment” images exhilarating. Rick Ashley captures an astonishing sky full of starlings rising over Rome in a breathtaking and paradoxically minimalist composition while Paul Kessel’s street scene seizes upon a singular millisecond of fluttering pigeons, superbly framing three figures in an avian frolic.
Intriguing are the birds somewhat harder to see, obscured by windows, reflected in ground water or appearing as mere pinpoints in a vast terrain, imploring viewers to search more carefully for both subject and meaning. Sara Silks encounters the majesty of two “soul mates” soaring over fog-shrouded mountaintops, sun breaking across the horizon in a serene sonnet. Molly Lamb catches a raptor – perhaps landing, perhaps taking flight – in leafy treetops, its silhouette framed by a window reflection that veils the nature of its intent. Joshua Sarinana layers the hues and textures of pavement, puddle and sky in watery reflections, graphically inverting a flock of birds.
Stimulating our perceptions even further are the photographers who utilize abstraction to infer their subjects. Kerry Mansfield’s delicately falling feathers dance in an arc, overlaying one another in a play of colors, shapes and opacities while Emily Vallee’s detail of an anserini’s graceful neck magnifies the essence of its beauty. Spirit and soul are likewise captured in the pointed, matter-of-fact commentary offered in Rebecca Palmer’s telling diptych and in Kelly Burgess’ poignantly suggestive reverie.
Several photographers have visualized exoticism in the form of a peacock, such as the one framed in hushed soliloquy by Alysia Macaulay (Feature Image) and in dazzling iridescence by Bibiana Medkova. Conversely, comic relief seems to take form in chickens, as in Alex Djordjevic’s candid capture of a bored woman clutching her bird and Conrad Gees’ colorfully inquisitive close-up.
A few photographers take full flight into metaphor through fantasy. Fran Forman’s mystical and moody photomontage ponders that age-old human desire to fly, symbolizing both our longing and fear in an earthbound animal near a house of prayer. In stark contrast, Lori Pond’s absurdist montage envisions wild fear in a vividly realistic couple aboard a flying swordfish in her hilarious homage to Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch.
Aviary takes a wonderfully multi-faceted view of birds and our relationships to them in this group exhibit, by turns intriguing, sad, fun and fanciful. The selected artists are: Roger Archibald, Rick Ashley, Karen Bell, Patricia Bender, Meg Birnbaum, Melissa Borman, Jenna Mulhall-Brereton, Kelly Burgess, Patty Carroll, Rebecca Clark, Heidi Clapp Temple, Robert Dash, Cori DiPietro, Alex Djordjevic, Tsar Fedorsky, Diane Fenster, Fran Forman, Conrad Gees, Steve Gentile, Daniel George, Aubrey Guthrie, Barbara Hayden, Janet Holmes, John Holmgren, Carol Isaak, Ellie Ivanova, Paul Jett, Doug Johnson, Paul Kessel, Molly Lamb, Laurie Lambrecht, Honey Lazar, Daniel Long, Ingrid Lundquist, Kerry Mansfield, Denise Marcotte, Alysia Macaulay, Cheryl Medow, Bibiana Medkova, Yvette Meltzer, Donna Moore, Paul Murray, Rebecca Palmer, Jane Paradise, Lori Pond, Esther Pullman, Becky Ramotowski, Katherine Richmond, Paula Riff, Joshua Sarinana, Wendi Schneider, Sara Silks, Felice Simon, Vicky Stromee, Don Swavely, Donna Tramontozzi, Marie Triller, Emily Vallee, Ellen Wallenstein, Dianne Yudelson, and Andrea Zampitella.
There will be a free public reception with some of the artists on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 from 4:30 – 6:00pm. For directions and more information, go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/show/aviary/
Feature Image: “Peacock, 2009” by Alysia Macaulay (Detail) (courtesy of the artist).