January 20, 2014

In Memory of the Passenger Pigeon

"The last known specimens were seen in most states of the eastern United States, in the 1890's, and the passenger pigeon died out in the wild in Ohio about 1900. The last survivor of the species that had once numbered 5 billion died in captivity in 1914."

--from  'A Green History of the World' by Clive Ponting

"Once There Were" 2014

"Once There Were" is my contribution to the story of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. It is an astounding story: that humans caused the extinction of a species that numbered in the billions in only about fifty years.

The bird in the piece is filled in with thread, while the colored rice paper cut outs- in the shapes of acorns, hatchets, oak leaves and rifles- are outlined with chain stitch. I also stitched the words "once there were five billion now there are none". This design surrounds the pigeon in a repeating oval pattern and includes small stitched birds and tear shapes. It tells a brief visual story and evokes for me the description of flocks that would fill the sky for hours. The border is comprised of the sun, moon, a partial representation of the tree of life, and stars in the corners. These are ancient symbols I added to refer to the abiding beauty that surrounds us, less transient than so many things from the natural world that human beings impact.