Lost Birds: Sculptures by Todd McGrain
From July 3, 2012 through September 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm at George Eastman House
George Eastman House hosts in its gardens this summer an edition of five bronze memorial sculptures by artist Todd McGrain July 3-Sept, 2012, and screen on July 28 and 29 the regional premiere of the documentary film about his efforts to memorialize five extinct birds. McGrain’s Lost Bird Project focuses on five North American Birds driven to extinction in modern times: the Carolina Parakeet, the Heath Hen, the Great Auk, the Labrador Duck, and the Passenger Pigeon. Each species is represented in a sculpture as high as 6-feet tall that weighs between 400 and 700 lbs.
Lost Birds: Sculptures by Todd McGrain
In addition to the edition at Eastman House, Lost Bird memorials have been placed in the last place each bird was seen in existence. The sculptures stand as a testament to what we have lost and a reminder to preserve what we have left, giving presence to the birds where they are now so starkly absent, according to McGrain, a former art professor at Cornell University and a native of Irondequoit, a Rochester suburb.
“The project started with me putting my hands into a bucket of clay and beginning to form out shapes,” McGrain said. “I became interested in these particular birds because of the beauty of their form. After coming across the stories of the birds, the sculptures took on new meaning and became memorials.”
McGrain has worked to memorialize the birds, placing sculptures near the last place the bird was seen. The Carolina Parakeet memorial is located at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve in Okeechobee, Fla.; the Heath Hen memorial is located in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest on Martha’s Vineyard; the Great Auk memorial is located on Fogo Island, Newfoundland; the Labrador Duck memorial is located in Brand Park in Elmira, N.Y.; and the Passenger Pigeon is located at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio. The memorials are not naturalistic works of biological detail. McGrain’s intention is to create shapes that capture the presence of the birds, to remind us of their absence, as subtle and hopeful reminders.
“These birds are not commonly known and they ought to be, because forgetting is another kind of extinction,” he said. “It’s such a thorough erasing.”
Visitors viewing the sculptures are encouraged to touch them. “Touch is literally the way we come in contact with the world,” McGrain said. “I hope viewers will come upon them unexpectedly, enjoy their form, and inspire them to make the effort to learn more about these lost birds.”
Use the map and explore all five lost bird sculptures on the property and in the gardens.
The Lost Bird Project documentary film
The Lost Bird Project, directed by Deborah Dickson, is a film about public art, extinction, and memory. It is an elegy to five extinct North American birds and a thoughtful, moving, sometimes humorous look at the artist and his mission. The film follows the road-trip taken by McGrain and his brother-in-law, Andy Stern, as they search for the locations where the birds were last seen in the wild and negotiate for permission to install McGrain’s large bronze sculptures in these locations.
Traveling from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, from Ohio to Newfoundland over a period of two years, Todd and Andy scout locations, talk to park rangers, speak at town meetings, and battle bureaucracy in their effort to gather support for the project. McGrain’s passion for form is apparent when he speaks in the film of the physicality of a life of sculpting.
The film is currently being screened at film festivals. The Montreal Mirror called it, “a stunning and evocative work about art, nature, and our imperiled planet,” while The Montreal Gazette described it as “entertaining, whimsical … and certainly very moving.” The Martha’s Vineyard Times spoke of the emotion: “Watching it … I was crying.”
Deborah Dickson's previous films have been nominated three times for an Oscar®. Producer Muffie Meyer directing credits include the original Grey Gardens documentary and several Emmy®-award-winning documentaries.
Screenings at the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House are 8 p.m. Saturday, July 28, with the film’s creative team leading a post-film discussion and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 29, after which McGrain will talk with the audience and lead a walking tour of the sculptures on museum grounds. Advance tickets are available. Admission to each film is $8 general admission/$6 students. For more information, please visit dryden.eastmanhouse.org or call (585) 271-3361.