The Lost Bird Project – Remembering.
Artist Todd McGrain wills us to remember birds which have become extinct. He has carefully researched and then sculpted five North American birds which have become extinct in modern times. He installs his creations in the last place each of these birds was seen on earth. He says that, “Forgetting is another kind of extinction.” So he reminds us.
Sadly, there are many birds which have become extinct in modern time. The first five Todd has chosen are the Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, the Heath Hen, the Carolina Parakeet, and the Passenger Pigeon. Todd brings these birds back into our consciousness with his large, compelling bronze statues. His memorials to these birds are located where they were last seen:
Heath Hen – Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Passenger Pigeon – Grange Insurance Audubon Center, Columbus, Ohio
Carolina Parakeet – Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee, Florida
Great Auk – Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada
Labrador Duck – Brand Park, Elmira, New York
At the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden in Palm Beach
Todd cast a second set of these five bronze birds. I have just seen them at the Ann Norton Museum in Palm Beach (through the end of June 2017). They inspired me to share them with you. The bird forms are beautiful, compelling and moving. I saw them with a collection of Audubon prints from which Todd took some of his inspiration. I have reflected on them and what they represent.
The Lost Bird project engaged me, invited me to appreciate and cherish these five bird species, then it gently reminded me that they are gone from the earth. The message is less about mourning their loss, as it is, in the words of Todd McGrain, “The Lost Bird Memorials are an invitation to explore parts of our natural heritage that have vanished and to join the effort to help fend off the callousness of forgetting.”
Todd McGrain has been a sculptor for over 30 years and he is the artist-in-residence in the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell. You can see more about him at his website.
The Lost Bird Project Book
Todd is a gifted, writer with a poet’s eye and turn of phrase. He has written a jewel of a coffee table book which is, “An ode to vanishing times and vanishing species”. To read The Lost Bird Project is to slow down, reflect and appreciate the natural world. It is inspiring and while the tale is one of loss, it inspires something primitive and appreciative. The book has wonderful photographs. It is the story of Todd’s quest to first understand and then memorialize these five birds. When you put the book down, you will wonder how you can help preserve the living species with which we share the planet. The Lost Bird Project, Hardcover $19.95, published in September of 2014.
The Lost Bird Project Documentary is a film about the journey Todd and his brother-in-law, Andy Stern, make as they find the location where each bird was last seen in the wild, and get permission to install Todd’s large bronze sculptures. The Lost Bird Film. $2.99 in iTunes. $3.99 on Amazon Video.
One way to participate in the ‘remembering’ is to join the Fold the Flock effort. In 2014, 100 years after extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, people began symbolically restoring flocks of Passenger Pigeons by downloading a printed page and following instructions to create origami Passenger Pigeons.
As of May 2019, the reported flock is 1,852,517,970 birds. That is a LOT of remembering!
Header image: www.lostbirdfilm.org