The Artist and Her Symbols (Part 3)

My last two blog posts have centered on three-dimensional work I’ve made using the bird as a symbol for transformation. And if you’re curious about other iterations of that work, please visit my website and explore the “more” tab, where I have documented the bird sculptures as they have evolved, with the latest being a diorama for the Fairgrounds Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

So now that you know how much I appreciate the bird as a symbol, you may be wondering why there aren’t more birds in my paintings! Well, sometimes there are. A unique opportunity came my way a couple of years ago when the Clearwater Arts Alliance approached me about commissioning an original painting for a traffic signal box.

In exchange for a stipend, I created an original painting which was later printed on vinyl material and wrapped around the signal box in Clearwater. To create this image, I spoke with residents of the Valencia Park/Cedar Grove community where the box is located, and discussed what sort of subject matter would be meaningful to them. I learned about the parrots who make regular visits to this area, as well as the abundance of orange trees. Because I normally work from my own photos, I set out to find these parrots and get their portraits! And the rumors were true – I found these birds enjoying a communal breakfast one sunny morning.

Four monk parakeets are perched on the top of a metal bird feeder. One of them is looking directly at the camera.


Back in the studio, I created a painting that would seamlessly repeat when duplicated around the signal box.


The image shows the painting of two parrots on a navy blue background - one is perched on a cypress branch, and the other is in mid-flight with its wings spread. Overhead are oranges and orange blossoms hanging.


The final result is another example of how I’ve used the bird as a symbol, and this time to enhance the beauty of the city. The box is located at the intersection of North Hercules Avenue and Montclair Road in Clearwater, Florida.


The signal box is shown with the image of the parrots on it. The image repeats twice around the box, and because of the thoughtful design, it continues seamlessly as if it were one image.


At the risk of sounding flighty, I will conclude this exploration of bird imagery in my next blog, by showing how the idea has migrated to a different expression in my most recent paintings.


Elizabeth Barenis is shown standing next to the signal box which has her original image of parrots on it.


“More than anything I hope that you’ll start to understand for yourself the secrets of the birds around you, and that you’ll start to learn something of their language.”

-Adele Nozedar, The Secret Language of Birds




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