The Lost Bird Project at George Eastman House

Posted by on Jul 24 2012 | Exhibitions, House & Gardens, Motion Pictures

We are excited to present the regional premiere of the Lost Bird Project at the Dryden Theatre Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m. & Sunday, July 29, 2 p.m. A panel discussion will follow the film, followed by a walk through the gardens to view the exhibit, all five bird sculptures. Use the map and explore all five lost bird sculptures on the property and in the gardens. Advance tickets available now.

A Few Minutes with Sculptor, Todd McGrain

The passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, Labrador duck, great auk, and the heath hen — diverse species of North American birds with one thing in common — modern extinction.
Sculptor Todd McGrain has memorialized these birds in a series of large-scale bronze sculptures that will be on view in the Eastman House gardens July 3 through September 30. We recently talked with McGrain about the project and its import.
How did you come to do this project?
Reaching into a bucket of clay and forming the shape of a small preening duck was the beginning moment of this project. While I was working on this first sculpture, I came across Chris Cokinos’ book Hope Is the Thing with Feathers. Chris thoughtfully tells the stories, describing the decline of extinct North American birds — and the sculpture took on new meaning. It became a memorial.

How did you select which birds to memorialize?
The birds memorialized in this project were driven to extinction in modern times. I became interested in these particular birds because of the beauty of their form. However, their stories of habitat loss and overhunting, bringing once abundant species to an end, propelled the project and gave it meaning. I found each of these birds and their individual stories thoroughly compelling.

What is the goal for the project?
By keeping the memory of these birds alive, we hope to contribute to the efforts by naturalists, scientists, ornithologists, environmentalists, teachers, and others attempting to raise awareness
about the current loss of plant and animal species. Our deteriorating environment puts fragile species under stress.

How did you decide on scale and use of materials for the sculptures?
The sculptures are as large as humans and that parity encourages a sympathy as people approach them — they are undeniable. The sculptures were created to be displayed in the birds’ natural
habitats, which demanded bronze for durability. The tactility of bronze makes people wish to touch them, deepening the viewer’s sympathy for, and understanding of, the birds’ loss.

This project is the subject of a documentary film. How did the film evolve?
Andy Stern, the producer, and I began researching possibilities for placing the sculptures in locations most closely related to each bird’s decline. We soon realized that the people and places
we were finding would be invaluable in telling the story of each bird and approached Middlemarch Films to join forces to produce the documentary. Through the generosity of the entire
Middlemarch crew, we were welcomed into the world of documentary filmmaking. We are particularly grateful to director Deborah Dickson for her talent and persistent vision.

Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m. & Sunday, July 29, 2 p.m. (Deborah Dickson, US 2012, 60 min., Digital Projection)
Following the July 28 screening, join us for a panel discussion with director Deborah Dickson, sculptor Todd McGrain, producer Muffie Meyer, cinematographer Scott Anger, and executive producer Andy
Stern. Following the July 29 screening join sculptor Todd McGrain for a walking tour of the grounds to discuss his work. Advance tickets available now.

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    Lisa Kribs-LaPierre is the former Manager of Online Engagement at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

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