Mixed media artist Dott Schneider was walking the towpath along the Erie Canal when she came upon a bony old woman with wild gray hair feeding some fat pigeons. The birds looked Hitchcock-esque, Schneider recalls, like they could devour her.
This creepy scene inspired Schneider's Nervous Bird exhibit, opening at 1300 Gallery this month.
Only Schneider reversed the image - into one of an obese person feeding skeletal pigeon - and politicized it. The obese person was the Bush administration, the bread crumbs were bits of information and the shaky, starved pigeons were members of the American public.
"I'm feeling very nervous about what?s going on, and I can totally relate [to the birds]," says Schneider, who studied at the Ã‰cole des Beaux-Arts de Rouen in France.
She spent 2,000 hours researching human and bird anatomy before beginning the works. Drawn with graphite on plywood boards, her images of bird skeletons relay every detail of the bone structure, down to the bumps on the vertebra. She completes her illustrations by painting them with common materials such as hair dye, motor oil and food coloring.
The paint drips and clots are left bare. The bird skulls have human expressions. In the painting "Sors," a bird head on a stringy neck looks as if it?s crying as it reaches down for a dark bread crumb. In "Ineo," a bird's head, cut off from the body, is centered with dark, sad hollows where the eyes used to be. "The balance of power is shifting, and the nobleman ...," a phrase from "Rome," a miniseries by HBO and the BBC, is scribbled in pencil.
"At What Cost" is the title of the nests Schneider will install in the gallery's corners, which will be built with papier-mÃ¢chÃ© casts of human arms and legs sticking out in different directions, literally suggesting that the ?cost? is an arm and a leg (which Schneider admits is tongue-in-cheek).
Though some may be turned away by her message, Schneider says she always hopes her work will push people to think about and discuss world issues. She may be nervous, but she's not afraid to ruffle feathers.?
Nervous Bird will be on display at 1300 Gallery from Feb. 17 to March 5. 1300 W. 78th St. For more information, call (216) 939-1300 or visit www.13hundred.com.