While none of us Pawesome contributors have any birds, I personally have slowly become fascinated by them. (Check out Mickacoo Dove and Pigeon Rescue’s blog, Rescue Report. You will find yourself learning a lot about bird personalities). But even if you’re not curious about birds in particular, artist Laurel Roth‘s crocheted pigeon garments will definitely catch your eye.
I first read about them in the Atlantic Cities, where I learned that these incredible costumes were on display at the Smithsonian’s “40 Under 40″ exhibit at Washington D.C.’s Renwick Gallery. The crocheted garments are incredible disguises so that pigeons can, instead, look like more exotic – and extinct – species like the Carolina Parakeet, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and my favorite, the Dodo.
When asked why she chose pigeons for this project for the Atlantic Cities article, Roth responded:
In a way, by virtue of their adaptability to humans and urban environments they reduce their perceived value to us (to the point that they are often considered a pest). Conversely, an extinct or endangered bird is valuable to us because it is NOT adaptable to us and our effects on the environment. The last living individuals of some species were hunted specifically because they were the last specimens (and therefore rare and coveted for collections).
It’s interesting and a bit odd to me that we see adaptability as a virtue but most value what can’t adapt to us. Passenger Pigeons were so numerous in the 19th century that they supposedly blocked the sun with 3.5-billion bird flocks that were 300 square miles large, but they were extinct by 1914. Now we’ll pay money to see a slightly battered, stuffed one in a natural history museum.
I’m interested in urban birds in general because of the way some species can adapt to urban environments and live their lives among us on a slightly different plane of existence. It adds a layer of awareness to look around and see how an urban environment might be seen as a source of food and shelter for another species, and how that can all take place in and among our homes and lives without us hardly noticing.
Using a costume to disguise common birds like pigeons as exotic, extinct ones is both funny and sad. I expect that’s part of the point. Roth’s creations are gorgeous works of art. But, no matter how lovely the disguise, it is still a pigeon (which I happen to love!) in a suit. On her website, Roth describes these as “reclamation suits” that can be used for “(visually) re-creating biodiversity and placing a soothing cosy on environmental fears.”
And to clarify, for anyone who is worried, these costumes don’t go on actual birds – they’re for display only. If you loved these as much as I did, you can help make them a part of Renwick’s permanent collection by making a donation.
Images courtesy of the artist, photo credit Andy Diaz Hope.