to send a sparrow

2013

This installation was created in my studio to draw a relationship between a playhouse and a birds nest, focusing on the function of each as being sites in which living things are nurtured.  Children and birds alike, eventually leave their sites of nurture to engage with the rest of the world, and have the opportunity to become nurturers themselves, in a broad sense of the term.

In the installation, participants stoop to breach the low entryway of a wooden sculpture that embraces them as they step inside.  The structure references a playhouse through its material fort-like qualities, and a bird’s nest though its form and method of construction.  The installation stands counter to the familiarity of the building in which it is located, summoning participants to embark on the brief adventure of stepping into a site altered as a momentary playful refuge, that then operates as a point of departure for both the visitor and the gift they are invited to make.  Upon entry, small sculptures of sparrows are seen sitting on a series of strings that run throughout the space.  The birds are made from simple materials often used in children’s crafts – masking tape and paper.  Covering the floor are blankets, pillows, and the materials needed to make the birds.  In a series of wooden containers along one wall are various snacks to nourish the participants while they make a sparrow, write someone’s address on a tag along with a personal note, and attach it to the strings with a clothes pin.  When the installation is near closing, I will gather all the sparrows and mail them to their new nests.

When sparrows begin the journey away from a nest, they only return on occasion, and generally build new nests, or restore other old nests.  Through the restoration of the old studio, one that was passed on to me, I like the sparrow have created a place that will exist only for a season.  The sparrows’ homes are rarely out in the open, but instead are grafted into existing crevices, holes, or portions of a building.  For this reason sparrows live primarily in areas where people also live, so as to make use of pre-fabricated constructions as starting points for new homes.  In the same way, the wooden portion of the installation is wedged into a pre-existing room, one of practicality due to its availability, my studio.  The renovation of the room suggests that the space lacked a reflection of its function as not only a workshop, but also a place of seasonal incubation, a place for fostering growth.  The room prior to the transformation was generic, without the specific uniqueness that we have as individuals.  In this specific space, we can relate ourselves to the structure, the sparrows, and also to the children that play in such environments.

A playhouse is both a stage on which narratives are acted out, as well as a shelter in which children can create.  Each type of stage involves the social aspects of interacting, watching, learning, and changing.  As a social space, the installation is designed for a handful of people to share the experience of making gifts for others.  As a social object, in that the structure is a sculpture within the actual architecture, it functions to excite memories of being hugged through its encompassing attributes, a moment of both safety and adventure.  There is a story that talks of how sparrows signify the end of a safe journey for sailers, in that the presence of sparrows in the sky meant that their ship was close to land, close to home.  Sparrows are humble birds, messenger birds.  The personal space of choosing to give something away becomes journey full of risk and effort in as much as the act of entering the installation is a different kind of adventure.  As participants take on the role of children making crafts as gifts, the birds become messengers of affection, love notes to someone far away.