Since I created the “Freebird” window sculpture in 2005, the bird has been a recurring symbol in my three-dimensional work. In 2012 while I was working full time as a medical biller in Little Rock, I rarely found time to make art. But a contest from the art museum there caught my interest. It was titled “Toys Designed by Artists,” and I felt the call to meet the challenge. Not only did I want to design a toy, I wanted to design an interactive piece of art.
I rummaged through my closet, visited local thrift stores, and sat quietly on the couch looking up at the ceiling. Finally an idea came to me. One of the objects I scavenged was a Jack-and-Jill themed music box. I took it apart and completely reinvented it with paint, feathers, and a new musical movement in the tune of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The result was a “bird” whose rotating wings appear to move up and down as shadows cast against the pages of a book.
The story is that of transcendence. The spirit of the bird transcends the feathers, the earthly existence, leaving only a shadow. That is to say, somewhere between happy and sad, between the positive and negative, is a moment of eternity. That moment lives somewhere between your smile and the shadow of your smile.
Click below to see the video of the music box:
“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings a tune without words –
And never stops – at all – “
Years later, in 2020, I had the opportunity to assist installation artist Jason Hackenwerth with teaching his class at Eckerd College. In the process, the symbol of the bird as transcendence reappeared on a larger scale. Below is the installation I created for one of the projects.
“Art is the highest form of hope.”