collage, watercolour 2020 30”h, 22”w
The destruction of the passenger pigeon species, the last known member of which died in 1914, is well documented. After researching first-person accounts of the shooting of thousands of birds at a time and illustrations of the bird, the illustrations became more precious to me than the actual bird (which went extinct long before I was born) could have ever been. I copied period illustrations of passenger pigeons and made digital copies. Many of the prints have holes, representing gunshots, and the prints are arrayed on wires as if assembled for target practice. Tree branches have broken under the weight of so many birds, just as happened when the original birds were abundant. I also thought back to my experience as a young girl in Indianapolis, when I used to hear skeet shooting in the distance. Only later did I realize that some of those shooters of clay pigeons may have been descendants of the men who used live passenger pigeons for target practice during the pigeons’ heyday.