Thursday, July 29, 2010

"100 Starlings"

Christopher Reiger 
"the bird that stands against time's desolation" 
Gouache, acrylic, watercolor and marker on Arches paper 
12 3/4 x 11 3/8 inches
"the bird that stands against time's desolation," a 2009 drawing of mine, is included in The Stockyard Institute's Nomadic Studio Bird Sanctuary, at the DePaul University Museum. The show opens this weekend.

My work is part of the "100 Starlings" installation by artist Nikki Jarecki. From Jarecki's press release:
"I am [...] bringing a collective of artists together under one roof to teach and learn from each other about the potential of a singular invasive species, the European Starling. I observe nature in the urban environment the same way I did in my rural environment. The observations lead to research which made me wonder how others perceive this common creature. I named the project, 100 European Starlings as that is the number that Eugene Schieffelin collectively released in North America in the 19th century."
Personally, I admire the starling, and I'm skeptical of those who villify the species. I wrote here in 2008,
"I have a soft spot for the trophic generalists, those species able to eke out a living - even thrive - across a range of unexploited ecological niches. Prince among the trophic generalists is the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Clothed in a white-speckled, iridescent suit of blues, blacks, purples and brown, the starling is dashing, if despised. Like so many American immigrants, the bird made a fresh start in New York just before the turn of the 20th century. According to recent estimates, the approximately 200 million starlings that call North America home all descend, Old Testament-like, from one group of birds (numbering between 60 and 100) released into Central Park in 1890. Shakespeare enthusiast Eugene Schieffelin believed his goal of introducing all bird species mentioned in the works of Shakespeare was a worthy one. Legion biologists disagree.

I'm not sure that their concern is wholly legitimate. The xenophobic couching of the terms - "invasive," "alien," "exotic" - is worrisome, and I also favor the realist's long view. Given the opportunity, all species spread when and where they can, and ecosystems, like climates, are forever in flux."
It will be interesting to learn what the other artists present. Read more about Jarecki's project here.

"100 Starlings"
(in conjunction with The Stockyard Institute's Nomadic Studio)
DePaul University Art Museum
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
August 1 - August 31


andrea said...

Trophic generalists. Thanks for the new term. As a close observer of crows, I agree with your respect for those species who are so adaptable that they thrive where others fail. I have seen a "pack" of starlings completely decimate a bar of suet in one fell swoop.

andiscandis said...

I've never seen that piece before. You understand that I have no idea how to discuss art, so please take it as a compliment when I say simply that I like it a lot.

My word verification is whinerf, which seems like a cross between a winery and a wharf. Should you decide to open a business, I think your current city is perfect for the world's first whinerf.