2005 - 2007
mixed media sculpture
Hummingbirds are sacred to many cultures. Ancient Mexican names compared them to "Rays of the Sun," and the ancient Aztecs sewed floor length ceremonial cloaks out of their feathers. In nineteenth-century North America, the painter Martin Johnson Heade made hundreds of paintings of hummingbirds.
While living in New Mexico, and immersed in the landscape, I began painting humming birds into my en plein air landscapes.
Gradually, the work evolved into "Oracle Birds", a series of oil paintings based on sculptures constructed in the studio out of found, household materials. After learning that the small birds are viewed as omens of good luck in many cultures, I set out to create, not only small hummingbirds, but giant ones to serve as my personal harbingers of good fortune.
After posing the creatures in studio tableaux with Tenebrist (dramatic, Caravaggio-like) lighting, the portrait transcended the original source, imbuing the painting of the creature with a theatrical presence and a life of its own.
Inspired by these sources, I created the bulbous bird-like, orb sculptures, placed each on a brightly lit pedestal, and began to paint commemorative five foot oil portraits of each bird. At this point, the birds themselves had evolved beyond svelte hummingbirds into portraits of brilliant creatures set against a dark background. The orb forms were placed just above eye level, so that upon approach, it was necessary to look up to see them. Their sparkling eyes, glittering feathers, and open beaks suggested an Oracle-like quality, as one could imagine consulting the birds for advice or magic properties. Following the mythology regarding the importance of hummingbirds in ancient cultures, they became my own Oracle birds.