Long-Tailed Tits are without question my favorite UK songbird. They combine the best of three worlds: form (the LTT is often described as a cotton ball with wings trailing a ribbon behind it), color (their pink, grey, and white palette is extraordinarily refined), and habit (their acrobatics are bizarre and wonderful). Ever since first observing them several years ago, I was determined to create a piece that focused on their wonderful habit of feeding upside down in all sorts of contorted positions. It took some time for me to compile the right reference material and for the idea itself to resolve from a vague concept into a fully realized piece, but I am thrilled with the result. The birds seem, quite literally, to be hanging from the strands of a modernist chandelier. In this case, the abstract lines my “String Theory” series is known for, begin to suggest a more (but not entirely) objective environment for the subjects to inhabit and interact with. The juxtaposition of the at-first-glance symmetrical configuration of lines and the seemingly random arrangement of the birds creates a sense of movement and dynamism. Then of the course there is the color palette, which is drawn directly from the birds and showcased against a textured color field of subtle, desaturated mauves and violets.
Last year I started the “String Theory,” series of paintings, which sinks its roots years back in my study of art history in college. I have always been fascinated with minimalism, and among my favorites historical examples are Piet Mondrian and Barnett Newman. Both artists brilliantly illustrate the simple but undeniable power of spatial and color harmonies, and the almost magical ability of just a few lines to create mood and meaning.
The contrast between illusionistic imagery and flat decorative treatments has been at the conceptual core of my work for nearly twenty years, owing largely to my study of modern art, so it should come as no surprise that an image of birds essentially flying into a Barnett Newman painting came into my head like a thunderbolt. Simply by virtue of their proximity to more descriptive elements like the birds, otherwise completely flat areas of color become alive and animate in three-dimensional space. The title of the series is not only a humorous play on words and reference to the fact that the avian subjects are, quite obviously, interacting with “strings” or stripes; it also alludes to the manner in which these contextual clues require a re-envisioning of the surrounding space, much as String Theory has (for its proponents anyway) changed our understanding of the cosmological landscape and how its component parts interact. Of course, the concept evolved well past this initial point of inspiration to become something entirely new and very much my own. These pieces suggest the dislocation of birds from their natural environments and their adaptiveness to the urban and suburban habitats we have made. These colorful stripes are not meant to “describe” anything as mundane as a fence posts, branches, or bird feeders; rather they become their own non-objective environments, beautiful, evocative, and otherworldly.