I have always been preoccupied with the natural world, which continues to be the main subject of my artistic work. I find myself particularly drawn to the paradoxical issues of nature’s power and fragility, and its often-fraught relationship with humanity. This has led me to my current project exploring endangered birds and, more recently, birds that have become extinct in my lifetime and the lifetime of the Endangered Species Act. When I took on this project I started by conducting 6 months of research in order to create a database. I consulted the NAT’s Philip Unitt during this phase in order to verify that I was on the right track, and have subsequently been in touch with amateur ornithologists to better understand the challenges of tracking and recording species populations, particularly in remote regions of the world. I update this database on a biannual basis in order to account for the fact that this field is constantly changing.
The impetus for this project came from listening to an NPR “The World” story called “In Punjab, Crowding Onto The Cancer Train”, by Daniel Zwerdling, May, 2009. The story centers on the Indian farm town of Bathinda. In post-Green Revolution there was a disturbing increase in the number of villagers getting cancer. The first sign of trouble was in the 1980s and ‘90s, when the Peacocks were disappearing from the fields. Excessive use of pesticides was killing the Peacocks and causing cancer in the population. This story started my project of researching endangered birds. I wanted to highlight how human activity has contributed to the loss of these species, not just to mourn the loss of a beautiful creature, but also to provide awareness regarding the implications these events have for humanity’s survival.
Human consumption and waste are conspicuous threats to the environment, and for my project to have the necessarily pointed weight it was important to choose materials that would provide commentary. Thus, I have drawn my series of endangered birds on paper I made from junk mail delivered to my home. For my series on extinct birds I have drawn on reclaimed wooden rectangles that are tiled to form a mosaic – a fragmented image represented a lost species. I am also creating a series of Specimen Drawers, after the drawers of animal skins, eggs, skulls, etc. found in Natural History Museums. This series speaks to the future of these species if we don't act.
Stacie Birky Greene
Recycled Paper and Wood, Ink, Oil