Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hope Sandrow at Art Sites, Riverhead

"Store bought eggs look unnatural to me now"

Everything changed for Hope Sandrow a few years ago when she crossed paths with a cockeral in the woods near her home. No ordinary farm animal, "Shinnecock," as he came to be known, is a Paduan rooster, one of the most prized birds in this species. Like a fugitive from some aviary "Project Runway," Shinnecock is, in a word, majestic. Tall feathers erupt into plumage atop his white head. 

Once prized as egg layers, Paduans have had their "mothering" traits bred out by breeders who value them for exhibition only. So, when a new brood of chics busted out of their pearly whites a few months later it was clear: love was in the air. Despite warnings from specialists to the species' inability to procreate, six healthy offspring were born.

But the real surprise was the derivation of Shinnecock's offspring. They popped out all different varieties and now, some four years later, dozens of wildly different colored birds -- orange, black, dappled, white -- populate Sandrow's meandering property. Rocking the proverbial boat, Sandrow's chickens have produced mostly purebred offspring who have vastly different coloration and characteristics of their parents, anathema to the things we know about genetics. You are invited to witness the complex social interaction among this blended family through a live video feed and the four streaming cameras Sandrow has installed in the open air studio. 

Recently, Sandrow and I exchanged thoughts in an online interview for Blinnk: 

Janet Goleas: Tell me about the broken eggs. Is this a response to the gigantic egg recall in the U.S.?

Hope Sandrow: This artwork predates the salmonella outbreak, but, you're right -- eggs created by the Shinnecock Family are not subject to contamination.

This heritage breed is the oldest known fowl dated to a 1 A. D. sculpture in the Vatican Museum. One idea explored in this work is the act of "creation," both singularly and in the context of the universe. It's one of the first questions posed to children:

"...the problem about the egg and the hen -- which of them came first -- was dragged into our talk, a difficult problem which gives investigators much trouble. And Sulla, my comrade, said that with a small problem, as with a tool, we were rocking loose a great and heavy one, that of the creation of the world..."    
                                                                                                   Plutarch, Table Talk, Moralia, 120 A.D

Also, the cracked shells are the remains of each egg consumed and they document the hen's original works. Consuming food -- or art -- is the reasoning for the title, "Food for Thought" given by my collaborator Nixon Beltran, a dancer and performer. It was Beltran's and the Building and Grounds manager at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center idea to feed these works of art to the artists-in-residence.

JG: The large egg is so beautiful. What's it made of?

HS: This egg's plaster composition projects a sense of delicacy in spite of its size. It's exhibited here just as it was displayed in the A.G. Edwards office in Watermill: Caring for nest eggs...that's what we do. It was printed on a placard as the company motto. Ironically, this was prior to the 2009 banking and mortgage financial crisis.

JG: Tell me about this image that introduces the show. It's a boy and a bird.

HS: This white Padua rooster is the patriarch and founding father of the flock. He followed me home one day and made it his home, too. Shinnecock, named for where we met, is poised here in my open air studio alongside a young boy who is watching his father climb up a dead, 100 year old Oak tree that he's about to fell.

Each day that Shinnecock has lived with us he's taught us how intelligent and resourceful he and his flock can be. As he's learned English and begun to communicate his needs, he inspired us to change our lives to accommodate him (proving Michael Pollan's point in his book, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World). 



Anonymous said...

t's such a great site. fanciful, extraordinarily intriguing!!!




Anonymous said...

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You nicely summed up the issue. I would add that this doesn’t exactly concenplate often. xD Anyway, good post…