Sally Duhig
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Dead Bird Diary exhibition

Dead Bird Diary is about loss.  It has been an extension of me since 2011.  I am a city dweller and I don’t leave it often so it is the birds in my suburban life that bring me pleasure.  I grew up with the birds and the trees.  I have rescued birds and portrayed myself as a bird.  Birds fly, are free, boisterous, and beautiful, and like us meet untimely ends.  When they are still they are eerily calm and give me a chance to have a really good look at them. 

There is a long tradition of depicting birds in art and dead birds particularly in still life painting.  The paintings, drawings and sculptures in Dead Bird Diary do not seek to be morbid or shocking but their making has been guided by an abundant curiosity for the wildlife around me. 

While searching to identify the birds of the Dead Bird Diary I have become interested in how science and birders have recorded specimens in illustrations and photographs and how they are preserved as skins in museums.  However, I find that the way a bird falls at the moment of death, or how I find it some time later, is the more authentic experience.  Art comes from lived experience so as the birds decompose my curiosity is piqued as anatomical secrets beneath the feathers and skin are gradually revealed.  The Purple Swamphen has received my intense scrutiny resulting in six works included in the exhibition and still my studio beckons with the continued change in its form. 

Working from the birds in charcoal, pastel, paint, ceramic, plaster, fabric, Perspex, photographs, computer parts and natural objects has been a reflective and cathartic process and has provided me with the chance to ponder their future, create a memorial to each, note their passing and in this exhibition provide them with a wake.

As the Dead Bird Diary project expanded to need more books the social aspect of the project gathered momentum.  Beyond the amateur’s challenge of identifying the birds I have developed an interest in categorising who had contributed, what had been found and found repeatedly, where they were found and the cause of death.  The contributions have been physical, visual or as stories worth sharing.

Too often nature is viewed through a screen: Dead Bird Diary is a genuine lived experience encompassing the compulsion of the collector, the considered pace of making art and the shared experience with my collaborators. 



Dead Bird Diary
Purple Swamphen
Long Gone
Tawny Frogmouth: Alive
Tawny Frogmouth
Roadkill Fightback: Fran Crow
Roadkill Fightback: Janet Figbird.
Roadkill Fightback: Karli Purple Swamphen
Roadkill Fightback: Leighann Cockatiel.
Roadkill Fightback: Wendy Butcherbird
Woolloongabba Pigeon
First Contributor Trophy.
Second Contributor Trophy
Third Contributor Trophy
Back to the Earth 1
Back to the Earth 2
Self Portrait with Dead Birds
Nature and Science
1. Female Blackbird below a window.
2. Seabird smashed on a cliff.
3. Noisy Miner in the vegeatble garden.
4.  Ringneck Parrot under power lines.
5.  Ringneck Parrot under a car bonnet.
6. Magpie on a road.
7. Seagull in a water pool at low tide.
8. Crested Pigeon caught under the house after wild weather.
9. Magpie in a park.
10.  Magpie in a park.
11. Rainbow Lorikeet in a  Crow's mouth.
12. Cormorant on a  beach.
13. Magpie on a road.
14. Purple Swamphen on a road.
15. Pigeon at a historical sight (UK).
17. Rescued Eagle Owl in a churchyard (UK).
18. Wood Duck on a road.
19. Little Penguin on a rock shelf.
20. Blackbird chick on a pavement (USA).
21. Rainbow Lorikeet under a tree.
22. Decoy sock (as a Magpie) on a road.
23. Large light brown bird on a road.
24. Osprey (?) on an outback road.
25. Purple Swamphen on a road.
26. Crow in a garden.
27. Butcherbird in a garden.
28. Blackbird chick on a pavement (USA).
29. Small brown bird on a pavement (USA).
30. Blue-footed Petrel on a beach.
31. Pink-eared Duck on the grass by the river.
32. Cockatiel in a gutter.
33. Common Myna (?) wing in the chook pen.
34. Figbird on a road.
35. Rainbow Lorikeet in a garden.
36. Magpie in a garden.
37. Crow on a footpath.
38. Kookaburra on a footpath.
39. Sparrow against a door (New Zealand).
40a. Sparrow on a footpath (Italy).
40b. Pigeon head on a footpath.
41a. Romeo the Crow on a footpath under an electricity transformer.
41b. Juliette the Crow on a footpath under an electricity transformer.
42. Scrub Turkey chick in a dog's mouth.
43. Noisy Miner on a road.
44. Rainbow Lorikeet wing in a garden.
45. Muttonbird on a beach.
46. Sparrow (?) on a school driveway.
47. Scrub Turkey tangled in mesh in a carport.
48a. Eastern Grass Owl in a fence (rescued and survivied).
48b. Eastern Grass Owl (rescued and survived).
49. Brown Cuckoo Doves in a paddock.
50. White-faced Heron on a road.
51. Red-browed Finches on a deck.
52. Scrub Turkey chick on the carpet.
53. Cattle Egrett near a pond.
54. Magpie on a footpath.
55. Rainbow Lorikeet in a backyard.
56. Pied Currawong on a city footpath.
57. Noisy Miner in a park.
58. Rainbow Lorikeet on a road.
59. Pigeon, caught by a Carpet Snake, under a bridge.
60. Superb Fruit Dove at the base of tennis court fence.
61. Noisy Miner in a paddock.
62. Tawny Frogmouth on a road.
63. Crow bones below a bushy cliff.
64. Blackbird on a pavement (USA).
65. Ovenbird against a building (USA).
66. Wedge-tailed Eagle on a western road.
67. Darter floating in a waterway.
68. Woodpecker (?) on a road (USA).
69. Woodpecker wing (?) on a pavement (USA).
70. Fan-tailed Cuckoo on a footpath.
71. Crow under the Airtrain elevated railway.
72. Wing part and bones of a Common Myna (?) beside a car park.
73. Red-browed finch below a glass wall.
74. Crow in long grass.
75. Australian Wood Duck on a road.
76. Tawny Frogmouth under a tree after a destructive hail storm.
77. Pheasant Coucal beside a road.
78. Pied Currawong on a footpath.
79. Muttonbird skull on a beach.
80. Red-bellied Woodpecker on a footpath (USA).
81. Common Myna on a road.
82. Pacific Black Duck duckling on a walking track.
83. Crested Pigeon on the carpet.
Dead Bird Diary (4 pieces).

Dead Bird Diary will be exhibited at WAG Upstairs, Woolloongabba Art Gallery, from 7th April - 2nd May, 2015.

613 Stanley Street, Woolloongabba QLD 4102  AUSTRALIA

(07) 3891 5551 Tuesday- Saturday 9am-5pm.