SPARROW HEART – This series of paintings is not based on epic or political themes, so nothing grandiose. This exhibition is small and frail, sweet and personal. My heart, my understanding of life and love expanded a million miles after my first encounter with a fallen baby sparrow.
In the summer of 2006 a sparrow fell from its nest and into my heart. Its tinyness in my hand, I felt the ferocity of its spirit and was immediately and profoundly changed. Nothing I had ever encountered in my life, romantic love, disability, financial struggle had ever taken my focus away from painting, but the love and kinship I felt for this tiny bird did.
After three days being mama bird, feeding it water by an eye-dropper and baby food by my fingertip, it died in my hand. His chirping stopped, his forever hungry and thirsty beak closed and his feisty little eyeballs stopped glittering.
I didn’t get out of bed for 3 days and for a month I could not look at anyone deeply in the eyes without crying.
In 2008 a friend brought me a sick and dehydrated sparrow. I fed it water by eye-dropper and baby-food by my finger tip until it was well enough to fly away. It did.
In 2009 I found a sparrow that had crashed into a window and was paralyzed. I cared for it for a day and night before he died and I buried him in my planter, tearful but grateful that it spent its last hours with me.
I was becoming increasingly aware that true love, sparrow love could not be possessed either in death or in life.
In the summer of 2012 I adopted into my care a lost and confused baby sparrow. It was barely 2 weeks old and too young to fly. He found sanctuary in my sunny green house. He got stronger and I knew one day he would fly away. I named him Fluffy Angel. Fluffy Angel hopped on my head, shoulders, back and up and down my arms. He loved peanut butter, wild millet and hiding in the cat-nip outpouring my planter box. He was the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep and I would bounce out of bed to play with him in the morning.
My collection of miniature ornaments was a playroom for him, a pewter ballerina my mom mailed me one birthday, a plastic black stallion Peter Downes from the Brooklyn museum had given me, a steel three legged elephant and its calf I had bought from a flee market, a plastic orange dinosaur I had found on 9th Street and a rock of red ochre I had brought all the way from Yirrkala, Arhnem land, Australia. He would hop on each of the toys as though it was a ride. My Yolongu mother had given me the ochre to grind and paint with but now it was Fluffy Angel’s poop rock.
His favorite toy was a simple plastic cup, the one you throw away after a party. He would nudge the cup with his beak until it rolled away and then he would hop after it and than nudge it again. I would gleefully watch him at play for hours intermittingly feeding him peanut butter or fresh baby cereal from my fingertip.
Almost a month had past and he was beginning to find his wings. He could now flutter clumsily from my shoulder to my thigh.
I woke one morning in a panic. I rolled into to my green house, no tweets, no hopping about. My life hadn’t seemed this still for ages. I couldn’t sense him. I searched madly. Hysteria building and then I found his tiny stiff body. His eyes appeared animated for a minute but on closer, hopeful inspection I saw it was ants moving over his eyes. I had to leg go. I buried him howling in grief.
Sparrow love is the greatest love I have known.
The paintings in this series I use both my hair and feathers. My hair is used as in a brush for painting; my human plumage. The feather is a quill for the writing of words and is the plumage of birds. In these paintings I marry the human and the bird, the painter and the writer, for I am both.