Birdland and the Anthropocene Exhibition

Lynne Parks, missing birds, photograph, 2017.

Scientists estimate that fifty percent of birds in the United States are imperiled and could disappear within a century.

See the exhibition online at Google Arts & Culture and download the Birdland and the Anthropocene Exhibition Catalogue.

Hear bird songs, bird stories, and visual descriptions of the exhibition: get the app or listen online.

Thursdays and Fridays 6-9pm; Saturdays 12-6pm; Sundays 10-4pm from October 6-29, 2017 at The Peale with additional programs at Make Studio and the Lab School.

This exhibition is generously supported by a BGE Green Grant.

You can help too by making a donation to the exhibition. Please specify that your donation is for Birdland. Your donation will support artists’ stipends and defray exhibition costs. Benefits to supporters include limited edition prints, guided bird walks in Baltimore, and more!

Cathy Cook, Sandhill Crane Close-Up, photograph, 2016.

Opening Reception: Oct. 6, 6-10 p.m. See photos from the night!

Closing Costume Party: Oct. 28, 7 p.m. until late

Saturday 14 October, noon: Lindsay Jacks, Director of Lights Out Baltimore

Saturday Artist Talks at 2pm

  • Oct. 7:  Benjamin Andrew, Christina Baal, Chris Siron
  • Oct. 14:  Lynne Parks, Jieyu Zhang
  • Oct. 21:  Cathy Cook, Nicole Shiflet, Elisabeth Pellathy, Ben Piwowar

Sunday programs at noon

  • Oct. 8:  Open mic referencing birds. Guest writers Jenny O’Grady and Timmy Reed and Linda Franklin
  • Oct. 15:  Dariusz Skoraczwski, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Cellist, bird song-influenced selections
  • Oct. 22:  Ian Nagoski, Music Researcher, Early 20th Century Bird Recordings and Bird-Imitations

Canaries in the coal mine?

Edgar Enders, photographic collage, 2016.

In this group show at The Peale and related programs in Baltimore’s schools and communities, curator and Baker Prize-winning artist, Lynne Parks, invites us to consider how our city’s architecture and the built environment impact the natural ecosystems in the Anthropocene, the new geological era in which human activity has dramatically altered the Earth through climate change and other influences.

Some of the artists in the show examine ornithology, the scientific study of birds—some play with the methods involved.  How do we use the technological advances we’ve made at a cost to the natural world in order to save it?  How do we imitate birds and what does it reveal about our perception of them?  How does extinction disclose domination and exploitation in political systems?  How are birds as symbols used in these narratives?

Parks and the other artists in this exhibition consider endangered species, extinction, and the postnatural—organisms that have been intentionally and hereditarily altered by humans. Included are real, predicted, and imagined extinction and post-extinction narratives. The exhibition’s “solution center” offers creative ways to mitigate humans’ impact on the natural environment. Parks has also partnered with Patterson Park Audubon, the Baltimore Bird Club, and Lights Out Baltimore to develop programs in the community for this exhibition.

Ashley Cecil, window film, 2017.

Parks asks the community to weigh in on these issues.  In workshops, Baltimore City students will respond with their own art.  Sightings and stories of the natural world in Baltimore will be collected from city residents with the “Be Here Stories” app.  What do birds mean to you?

Birdland and the Anthropocene from Lynne Parks on Vimeo.

Parks herself has been a dedicated birder for sixteen years. In that time she has seen flocks of species that numbered in the thirties and fifties—already a decline from the populations of fifty years ago–now in ones and twos. Birders pay attention in a special way. It’s part curiosity about the natural world, part enchantment, and part therapy—nature heals.

Divya Anantharaman, Pintailed Wydah, creative taxidermy, 2015.

And that is another story here. It’s about people and how we need birds. It’s about love—love of birds, desperate measures to save them, and creativity. In caring for birds, we find our humanity. We strive to emulate them–to fly, literally and metaphorically.

But what happens–to all of us–when Icarus flies too close to the sun? Here the exhibition invokes the long history of the Peale Museum.

The Peale is a building of firsts: founded by Rembrandt Peale in 1814, it was the first purpose-built museum in the United States. Artist, inventor, and entrepreneur, Peale introduced gas light to “Light City,” the first to be illuminated by gas in the young country. He banked record ticket sales to his Museum at night, drawing audiences as much to see the dazzling new energy technology in use in the galleries as the exhibits of art, natural history specimens, and other curiosities. Peale came from the “first family of American art,” son of Charles Willson Peale, artist, naturalist, and founder of the first art academy in the U.S.–the Philadelphia Academy of Arts. His brother, Titian Ramsay Peale, circumnavigated the globe documenting and illustrating birds, butterflies, and mammals in the age of Darwin.

Titian Ramsay Peale, Three Birds, lithograph, n.d.,  Museum of Nebraska Art

After failing to prove sustainable as a museum, the Peale became Baltimore’s first City Hall, and then the home of the first public school for African Americans in Maryland, before returning to its original purpose as the Museum of City Life, and finally closing in 1997. Today, the Peale is rising again, a Phoenix and scion of a family of creators who epitomized curiosity in their response to the world around them.

Investigation–how the natural world shapes us and how we shape it–and the responsibility that comes with invention–like managing the impact of the miracle of artificial lights on the natural environment–ties the contemporary artists in this show to those who proceeded them at the Peale. Birdland and the Anthropocene invites citizens and visitors to Baltimore alike to join their exploration of creative responses and countermeasures to absence and threat, including salutory darkness in a world that is fast becoming post-ornithology.

Participating Artists

Divya Anantharaman, Brooklyn, NY

Sandy Anderson, New Orleans, LA

Benjamin Andrew, State College, PA

Christina Baal, Mamaroneck, NY

Amy Boone-McCreesh, Baltimore, MD

Krista Caballero, Takoma Park, MD & Frank Ekeberg, Trondheim, NO

Ashley Cecil, Pittsburgh, PA

Cathy Cook, Baltimore, MD

Laure Drogoul, Baltimore, MD

Edgar Endress, Fairfax, VA

Linda Franklin, Baltimore, MD

Anne Geene Arjan de Nooy, The Hague, NL

Susan Humphrey, Baltimore MD

Ashley Kidner, Baltimore MD

Jonathan Latiano, Baltimore, MD

Monique LuchettiBrooklyn, NY

Jennifer McBrien, Baltimore, MD

Ian Nagoski, Baltimore, MD & The Center for PostNatural History, Pittsburgh, PA

Lynne Parks, Baltimore, MD

Elisabeth Pellathy, Birmingham, AL

Ben Piwowar, Baltimore, MD

Jessica Rassp, Baltimore, MD

William Rhodes, San Francisco, CA

Glenn Ricci, Baltimore, MD

Nicole Shiflet, Baltimore, MD

Chris Siron, Baltimore, MD

Andrew Yang, Chicago, IL

Jieyu Zhang, Reading, PA