Years ago, I had cow patterned car seat covers and then reupholstered some kitchen chairs with cow patterned vinyl. After that folks assumed I collected cow themed things and I ended up with clothing, ceramics and cards adorned with bovine images. Fast forward a couple of decades and the same is now true for chickens. I’ve picked up some thrift store and garage sale finds and friends and family have bestowed other chicken themed things upon me. Admittedly I am someone with very few material wants so chicken themed objects probably seem like an appropriate gift. I love the varied representations of poultry and have ceramic, carved wood, resin, fused glass, and paper mache chickens and, of course, a number of paintings.
Although I have no talents in the visual arts it seems like a good fit for me to write about the folks who do and have been able to capture the essence of those birds in their art. I started this series ‘When Art Meets Chickens’ three months ago and have since written nine posts: group shows, individual profiles and even a piece on tattoos.
I recently stumbled across a photo of a beautiful carved chicken by David Petronius. A little bit of online sleuthing and I discovered it was featured in an Alaskan gallery’s show featuring chickens. Within minutes I emailed the 2St Gallery and asked if they’d like to be the tenth post in my series.
I asked Kate Wood, one of the art collective’s owners to give me some of the back story about the gallery and how they came up with the idea of focusing on chickens:
Two Street Gallery is a show place in downtown Fairbanks that attracts the best artwork in the Interior. Operating as an artist-owned business, we’re working together to provide original art and gifts to collectors as well as visitors.
Open at the current location since April 2012, we are eight business partner artists and nearly 25 consigning local artists. Most of us have called Fairbanks our home for years. We produce work in ceramics, scrimshaw, textiles, photography, painting, sculpture, jewellery, collage, and mixed media.
A couple years ago we were discussing themes for our monthly show for the upcoming year.
Someone said how about chickens? Then we discussed chickens and did some research. There were a couple with no interest at all in chickens, or a chicken theme. We found out how popular chickens are to the point of pets in New York City. One can buy chicken diapers for house chickens and looking on Amazon one may find chicken outfits, harnesses and chicken themed clothes for humans. We discussed our personal experiences with chickens. Some members have had them as outdoor pet for eggs with the girls having names.
When I had a farm in Maine in early 70’s I had a fascination with chickens, the odder looking the better. They were fun, all colors and feathers of wild plumage. I probably had several hundred.
We ended up having a gallery show and it was wildly popular – who knew?! A couple of years passed and we decided we would have Return Of The Chicken, by popular demand.
Those that were not into chickens are still are not, can not imagine chicken art although we have chicken art in the Gallery; we laugh. It is surprising how many people come in and say they just love chickens.
This is how we advertised the show: These ancient dinosaurs have a place in our hearts as pets, farm animals, and breakfast. Come see how we interpret chicks in various media for our August show. You’ll be crowing!
So for those of you who missed the show here’s your opportunity to enjoy some of the pieces that were featured there.
I am a contemporary folk artist whose art form is the North American bird decoy. Over the past 150 years or so, the creation and use of handmade bird decoys for hunting have gradually evolved into today’s modern forms of decorative bird carving and sculpture. The making of handmade hunting decoys still exists and is kept alive by dedicated aficionados of the art form. Carved and painted birds from “folksy” to “ultra-realistic” can be seen in shows, galleries, and other venues across North America. It is of great joy to me that I can use this art form, that was once used to over harvest and threaten migratory bird populations, to increase the awareness of their existence, and to aid in the preservation of the habitats that are necessary for their survival.
Margaret Donat earned a BFA in Jewelry Design at the University of Idaho in 1978, and a BA in Art Education in 1979. After teaching art for 34 years, she became a founding member of Two Street Gallery. Her watercolors and kiln-formed glassworks are always on display there and have been exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions.
Stephanie Rudig A retired teacher Stephanie spends much of her time sewing interesting hot pads that include block prints of birds, animals and in this case chickens. She’s known for her hundred of fabric birds with color accuracy in calicos and other fabrics. Stephanie also creates just plain fun birds of colour.
Mary Gebhard When I took my first pottery class in 2005 I was immediately drawn to the medium; clay fever is how I like to describe my feelings at the time. Everything took on a new meaning and I looked at most everything differently from that moment onward. Not much has changed as I am still ecstatic about working with clay. I enjoy the whole process, but decoration is my favourite part.
Shirley Odsather began taking Ceramics classes at UAF in 1970 and established her own studio in 1977. Shirley was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and attended the UAF, majoring in Biology with minors in French, Art, and Anthropology. Influenced by her degree, she constantly uses her knowledge of geology, chemistry and biology in her studio. Shirley enjoys finding and experimenting with natural Alaskan and Yukon Territory clays, developing new glazes and allowing nature to contribute to her shapes and designs.
Kate Wood’s first memory of painting with watercolor was sitting at the kitchen table, her feet not touching the floor and paintbrush in hand. Her legs grew, but her interest never faded. She went to The Museum School of Fine Art, Massachusetts College of Art, and New England School of Art in Boston. In the 60’s when women were supposed to be teachers or nurses, the Vietnam War was in full swing, protests were everywhere about everything, Kate entered the world of art. Over the years she has worked in multiple mediums: oil, gouache, glass fabric, and printmaking, but has always returned to watercolor.
Teresa Shannon creates pottery inspired by her life in the hills around Fairbanks. Her colourful, playful pots have been shown throughout the USA. She enjoys sharing her love of clay with her students at UAF. Much of the work is thrown on the potter’s wheel and altered to create whimsical animals, then finished with glazes that run and pool in unpredictable ways like spring melt.
I’m glad the members who supported the idea of a chicken themed art show prevailed and that it was so popular with the public. I’d love to see more galleries, large and small, take up the challenge to celebrate the humble chicken. I think they’d be surprised by the number of folks who’d happily buy those works of art.
Thanks to Kate Wood and 2St Gallery for sharing the works featured in their chicken art show, used with permission. Featured photo: Fused glass chickens by Margaret Donat