Bird Is the Word

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on December 9th, 2008

One of my challenges as the curator of collections is to find ways to tie the Woodson’s permanent collection to its changing exhibitions. Obviously during Birds in Art that connection is no problem. It becomes a bit more difficult with an exhibition like More Than Words. Fortunately, the Museum is a good steward and save ephemera it receives, including artists’ illustrated letters and thank you notes. A sampling of these is included in Bird Is the Word, currently on view in the gallery adjacent to the Museum’s entrance.

These letters share thoughts on the importance of the Woodson Art Museum, specifically the annual Birds in Art exhibition. Dutch artist Robin d’Arcy Shillcock is known for completely filling the white space around his written word with colorful sketches and doodles. In a 2008 letter he regrets being unable to attend the opening weekend festivities and sends best wishes to Master Wildlife Artist Jim Morgan. Elliot Offner used a drawing of Daedalus surrounded by elaborately penned script to share his eloquent thoughts after being honored as Master in 2003-truly a thank you note posing as a work of art.

A beautiful pastel painting records Fred Somers’ daily observations of the comings and goings of birds to a flowering Lady Slipper. Of the many visitors, he chose a ruby-throated hummingbird to include in the composition. Somers’ writing is reminiscent of a journal page, providing the viewer with insights into the musings of an artist.

From doodles to elaborate watercolor paintings, from a brief note to a multi-verse poem, each of the seventeen artists honors the Woodson Art Museum with a beautiful as well as thoughtful illustrated letter.

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