Brian McArthur and Dawn Detarando at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre with their piece titled White Breasted Nuthatch and Birch Trees.

Brian McArthur and Dawn Detarando at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre with their piece titled White Breasted Nuthatch and Birch Trees.

Not just a flight of fancy

In this hyper-kinetic age, two Red Deer artists are using stillness to try to capture children’s attention and help foster an appreciation of nature. Dawn Detarando and Brian McArthur have created a series of bird friezes and sculptures in white porcelain as a travelling art/education exhibit commissioned by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX program.

In this hyper-kinetic age, two Red Deer artists are using stillness to try to capture children’s attention and help foster an appreciation of nature.

Dawn Detarando and Brian McArthur have created a series of bird friezes and sculptures in white porcelain as a travelling art/education exhibit commissioned by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX program.

The crisp details and simplicity of the artworks capture various aspects of birds and their habitats. The display, which is only showing until Wednesday at Marjorie Wood Gallery in the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, sometimes offers viewers a whimsical look at avian life. But it also offers an underlying message about preservation.

The cameo-like works are reminiscent of the ancient marble art of Greece or Rome. But, unlike classical sculptures that were initially painted before they faded to white, Detarando and McArthur had no intention of using glazes or paints to capture colourful bird plumage.

“It would have obliterated the details,” said Detarando, who lives and works with McArthur in the Voyager Art and Tile Studio, just south of Red Deer.

“We think the (unpainted porcelain) brings a different aspect to it.”

McArthur likes the way light hits the whiteness, casting interesting shadows. “It really captures the detail of the carved feathers and eyes.”

The artists chose the hard medium because it allows them to carve in sharp relief, and also provides an interesting contrast. While birds are warm, soft and natural, the porcelain is cold and unyielding. The artists describe it as a “manufactured emblem of civilization.”

Viewers are led to observe shape, form and texture in dimensional detail in Bird Frieze: New Works in Porcelain — from the multitude of mountain ash berries depicted around cedar waxwings, to the protruding beaks and open mouths of a nest full of barn swallows.

Nearly all of the subjects depicted, including woodpeckers, nuthatches, ducks, chickadees, ravens, shrikes and a kingfisher, are regularly seen in the forest around the artists’ studio. “We have a great backyard and we often watch the birds,” said Detarando. “They are something we have a great appreciation for.”

The artist sees the feathered fliers as survivors that are constantly having to overcome challenges. “They have made so many adaptations and live in so many different types of environments,” said Detarando.

One of three sculptures in the display is called Eastern King Bird and its Clutch. It shows an adult bird perched on the blade of a chainsaw, while its chicks are in a nest on top of the chainsaw motor. McArthur, who once saw eastern king birds nesting on top of a drill pipe, said he intended this sculpture is a metaphor for habitat loss.

A frieze, Kitty a Serious Threat, alludes to millions of songbirds that die every year in the clutches of wandering cats.

Other works include a sculpture of the late local author and naturalist Kerry Wood, with a chickadee perching on his binoculars. In White-Breasted Nuthatch and Birch Trees, a bird and tree trunks extend out of the frieze and onto the wooden frame.

An educational component of the exhibit, which will travel around the province for the next two years (next stop is the Medicine Hat College campus in Brooks), asks viewers to match various adaptations of bills and bird feet.

There are also booklets and lesson plans for teachers who choose to use the display as a jumping off point for classroom projects and discussions.

Detarando believes children, as well as many adults, have been getting further removed from nature. And she feels this is a shame, since birds are our close neighbours.

“We don’t get to speak with each other, but we get to observe each other … birds are captivating, maybe because they seem so free.”

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Patrons practice on a putting green as the Whitestone Bridge looms in the distance at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx borough of New York on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Former President Donald Trump has a rich history of fighting back when he’s down and making others pay, and that’s exactly how he intends to deal with New York City over its plans to fire his company from running the city golf course. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dump Trump? Kicking him off NYC golf course may not be easy

Trump Organization has been reeling after the Capitol riots

A photo illustration made December 14, 2012 in Montreal shows a computer in chains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Irish health system says it’s targeted in ransomware attack

Health care systems have been a target before

A woman wearing a mask talks on her phone near an exhibition depicting a rover in Mars in Beijing on Friday, May 14, 2021. China says its Mars probe and accompanying rover are to land on the red planet sometime between early Saturday morning and Wednesday Beijing time. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China Mars rover to land between Saturday and Wednesday

Only the United States has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza

Israel called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

FILE - In this Friday March 6, 2020, file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry visits the Silverstone Circuit, in Towcester, England. In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast broadcast Thursday, May 13, 2021, Prince Harry compared his royal experience to being on “The Truman Show” and “living in a zoo.” (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Prince Harry thought about quitting royal life in his 20s

Feared his family would have to deal with the same spotlight that was on his late mother

Opinion
Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as… Continue reading

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer's first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital's medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Alberta physicians: Vaccines are our path forward

As the AMA representatives for Alberta’s family physicians, we were immensely relieved… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Most Read