Family Portraits is a personal lament for the rapid decline of species. It is frightening to me that I could lose the creatures who have become an important part of what “home” means to me. I want this installation to inspire us all to prevent the extinction of creatures who truly are, with us, members of Earth’s family.
Scientists assert all nine major North American bird habitats are in danger; and, a full one-third of North American birds require urgent conservation. Three of Florida’s butterfly species are already extinct, and two more are on the brink.
I have focused here on species that I have come to cherish because they live near me: the red-bellied woodpecker, the blue jays that frequent my bird feeder, the cardinals I delighted in seeing in my parents’ garden as a child. The tiny skipper butterfly I had never noticed as a child has become fascinating to me. The red-winged blackbird was a recent exciting find. The gulf fritillary is ever present near where I live; while the State butterfly, the zebra longwing, is mysteriously absent even though they both share the same host plant.
Other species’ portraits are here because they are scarce everywhere: the red-cockaded woodpecker, a currently-recovering keystone species; and the endangered Florida scrub jay, who can no longer survive near me because habitats large enough for it are gone. Finally, on the table are portraits of a male and female purple martin. My dad built a beautiful, tall birdhouse for them but they never visited. These martin portraits are the most emotionally potent for me, like family members loved and lost before I was born.
This piece was installed at The New American Patriot: Art in the Public Interest Exhibition, from July 1 - 11, 2016
I've been busy getting these little portraits framed for the art show they are bound for, The New American Patriot: Climate Art in the Public Interest, on display from July 1 through July 11 at the Box Gallery in West Palm Beach. This cardinal is my favorite, it existed as a drawing bordered by green watercolor for a long while until I worked up the courage to give it some plumage!