The male Vogelkop bowerbird goes to incredible lengths to attract a mate. With the creativity of an artist and the industry of an architect, he collects both natural and manmade materials found nearby to create an elaborate nest. He’ll incorporate everything from twigs and grasses to bottle caps and string into his masterpiece, all in the hopes of wooing a lady. Now, art is imitating this incredible behavior seen in life.
The remarkable bird inspired New York-based artist Janelle Iglesias’s new exhibit, In High Feather, at the University at Buffalo. The immersive, two-story bower in the style of the Vogelkop bowerbird, isn’t intended to be an exact replica of the bird’s home, Iglesias says, but rather an artistic reimagining.
Iglesias recently visited the Arfak Mountains in Indonesia in search of what she calls “the most advanced avian architecture on earth.” Her trip was made possible with the help of a Jerome Foundation travel and study grant.
Iglesias says that the kinship she felt for the Vogelkop bowerbird extends beyond an appreciation for their constructions. She and the birds use locally sourced material, often repurposing discarded items, she says. “I felt like I needed to make some decisions about my practice that would align my [environmental and political] philosophies,” she explains.
The bowerbird uses the space they create for seduction, luring females to visit and check out what they’ve created, in much the same way an artist seeks an audience. In fact, Iglesias invited the public to watch her build the exhibit, which opened February 27.
The two-story installation in the Lightwell Gallery will also include images and field recordings from her trip, as well as discarded items she picked up, including Christmas trees and cereal boxes. Just like the bowerbirds’ creations, her invention is a wonder to behold.
In High Feather runs until May 10.