VANITY/DIVINITY: The Bird as Visual Metaphor

VANITY/DIVINITY: The Bird as Visual Metaphor features artists Gwen Joy, Ed Meese and Robin Ward. Throughout the centuries, the arts have utilized the bird as symbol and metaphor, totem and spiritual guide. The three artists included in this exhibition bring a unique perspective to their interest in birds.

Gwen Joy

I am an artist who specializes in colorful folk art paintings. My artistic style is outsider brut. It is primitive in style, raw emotionally, and sometimes mature in nature. I love creating dynamic color planes and expressing emotion. I create art in order to process the cultural and visual information that thrives around me. Everyday I need to process new bits of information. In this sense my artwork is a mutation of myself as I'm adapting to my surroundings.

My artistic impulses are involved in a dialogue with the customs of the past and the stories of the present. I love to tie new stories and old folk tales into my work. I also love to play on word definitions, either formal or slang.

I often use subjects with an iconic nature to draw out the multi-layered context of my work. This is also a good way for making social commentary. When I involve myself in the process of translating the content of my work, often a complex abstract formation takes shape.

My subject matter is usually lyrical and sometimes mythical. I love painting animals,

celebrities, made up fantasy creatures, and spirited women. Often, the made up creatures are half human and half animal. The spirited women are usually fashionable, full of emotion, and full of moxy.

I strive to produce an end product that has both strength and beauty. I believe the human mind is a lot like my artwork; filled with hard facts and stories but also softened with abstract thoughts and emotions. The overlap between these two components is an interesting manifestation of mind and spirit.

robin ward

Birds are always moving…sometimes you only have a glimpse of them as they quickly reveal themselves…We know they are there, we hear them and sense their movements. They announce the seasons. Unconsciously we expect them to be a small part of our personal landscapes, often as an afterthought, if a thought at all. Flashes of color, bathed and nearly invisible in the green overhead, or sharply outlined by any number of skies. We often only notice them when signs of them are absent.

There are long narrow windows in my old house, where I work. I am surrounded by trees. Sadly, birds will sometimes fly into my windows. Like all of us, they can lose their navigation momentarily and suddenly find themselves on the ground. There is illusion in reflecting with the window….an invisible barrier that can keep us safe, or affect our flight. Sometimes the ground is where we stay. But usually, there is a moment to gather yourself and fly back into the green, aware that your own reflection can fool you.

This series is an attempt to honor the free and precarious nature of the bird, and of flying. As well as the transparent and reflective, yet concrete nature of the window. These combinations of light and movement, color and form speak of the transitory nature of birds…always on the way to somewhere with or without obstacle.

Ed Meese

As a young child, I had a phobia of birds. As I grew into adulthood, my phobia turned into a fascination.

When five years old, I was spending the night at my grandparents home. It was a hot night and the windows where left open. I awoke from sleep to a small bird that flew into my room. The bird must of hit the wall which caused it to die in my bed.

Years later I kept finding dead birds but these birds did not look sick or attacked. They looked peaceful as if they died naturally.

In my mid twenties, I received a love bird as a gift. I quickly became attached to this bird. I have had several rescue birds since.

In my mid thirties, I was thinking about moving to New Mexico. I spent several weeks traveling about the state. That's where I met an native American who was sell jewelry.  He told me that I was of Indian descent. I did not know my genealogy. He said that I was like a dead bird. I asked him what he meant. He said that some souls are meant to last last resting place before they died and I would witness many deaths in my life. He said it is an honour to witness a departing soul. I never confirmed my family's genealogy, someday I might.

My artwork is about the other souls which watch us daily.

  Ed Meese