The Blackbird

Blackbird as Darkness, from a Studies of Animals
as Christian Symbols, 2001
6" x 7", Pencil on Paper
I find birds fascinating, particularly blackbirds.  I've used blackbirds as subject matter many times.  I find them mysterious and knowing.  They carry the burden.  They know the secrets.

Blackbirds have long been used as symbolic representations in a variety of cultures.  They have represented luck, magic, lunar phases, death, transformation, spiritual knowing, and trickery - to name a few. In ancient forms of alchemy the blackbird represented the higher knowing. Some Native American cultures believed blackbirds to be the bringers of light.

I think I respond to them for all of those reasons.  They know something.  And we don't know what it is.  Regarding art, I'm always drawn to that type of ambiguity.  Sally Mann, in her genius, said on season one of Art 21, "If it doesn't have ambiguity, don't bother."  I couldn't agree with that assertion more.  The notion that we, as artists, have to spell it all out is absurd and insulting.  People should be allowed to find their answers in time.  They should be allowed to wonder.  They should be allowed to miss the point all together.  As the artist, we sort of have to forget them.

Forgetting your viewer is hard to do when art making - mostly because you want what you're trying to say to be heard.  But to forget them is ultimately to respect them because forgetting them eliminates our urge to pander to them, our urge to control them.  If we really want our art to speak to them, we're far better off just pretending like they're not there.


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