Troublesome Nature // Bird Women - Come! Come!

Bird Women- Come! Come!

PAINTING SCULPTURE HAPPENING INSTALLATION

Here in Room 1 you find the project Bird Women - Come! Come! which consists of several pieces including paintings, sculptures, a happening and installation. The project began with depictions of women with bird features or women with moth-wings, and developed into larger works including a painting suspended from a pole which played a central role in the happening 'Sister - Where Do You Spread Your Wings?' Another central piece in this project was the development and showcase of the three sculptures BIRD WOMEN exhibited at Deep Forest Art Land on the 27th of July together with a talk about the historical and cultural significance of flying women.

INSTALLATION VIEW
The three sculptures FUGLEKVINDER (BIRD WOMEN) shown here at Deep Forest Art Land, Denmark

 

 

 

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The wings of a bird can take the owner wherever she wishes, keeping an outlook at everything below that from the sky must seem small and insignificant. It provides this sense of power, but there is also something playful about wings. This freedom to fly away, turn away. 

Wings are impressive to look at. They are wide and take up the space. They have some of the same properties as a cape or a cloak. Putting on your cloak or spreading your wings you transform. To what? To who you have always wanted to be of course.

The combination of women and bird features promise this transformation or a release from conventions. The bird woman takes up space with her massive wings; not making herself smaller with leg crossed on a chair. No, she insists on her own existence. Some would say she is awkward with her bird feet, if she has that trait, but what does it matter to her? She leaves whenever she wants.

She can play and escape. She is in a process of constant release.
 

  

  

 

Moth Lady in Impressive Boots
Gouache on paper, 2020

 

One of my first images of women with bird-like qualities was 'Moth Lady'. Her boots have a resemblance to black feathers, like a raven's.  

The fascination with bird women or women of flight is shared in many cultures. In Greek mythology we find the harpies, and in Nordic sagas the Goddess Freya has a cloak of feathers (fjederham), which enables her to fly like a huge bird between worlds. Witches are too known for flying on various objects, beasts and even unfortunate men in the middle of night. They might not have feathers, but they have the ability to fly nonetheless. It makes sense, that witches are sometimes referred to as 'old crows'. It was also recommended by Christian scholars in the 16th century that men inspected the feet of women they where about to sleep with - if she had bird feet she was a demon, and you should definitely not proceed.   

There is something satisfying in the 'old crow witch', who clearly flies where she pleases. Unapologetic. 

 

 

 

Fjederham
Acrylics on canvas, 2020

The painting above is made on raw canvas and the one below on many sheets of paper put together. The picture below is put on a large wooden pole, which makes it possible to mount and helps the figure in the painting to keep her wings spread wide open. 

Blue Wings
Gouache on paper, 2020

 

In one saga from the Nordic mythology the Goddess Freya visits the other Gods in the shape of a witch-like old woman. She gives such good advise through foresight that the Gods starts to envy one another and soon vicious fights break out.  

In the end the Gods decides to get rid of the problem - Freya. They hurl spears at her, but nothing seems to touch her. She only cackles at their efforts. They then try and burn her. But that also only results in her mockery. They try three times, building a bigger fire each time, but nothing touches her. 

In the end they have to let the old crow go her ways.

Historically, it is not easy to pin-point what Freya was, because she seems to take on many forms in different stories. Her magic is regardless powerful and tied to nature and beasts.
Not only can she put on her cloak of feathers, but she sometimes rides a wild boar or travel in a wagon pulled by two strong cats.
 

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'Sister - Where Do You Spread Your Wings?'

 

Happening, July 12, 2020

with Amine Kromann Karacan and Signe Ververs Lübke

  

In a small forest in the outskirts of Copenhagen we brought the painting Blue Wings, and under the working title 'Sister - Where Do You Spread Your Wings?' we hung it up between two old trees.

We wanted to carve out a space in the forest for ourselves.

 

Before going we had discussed if we normally have a space to breathe deeply; opening up the rib cage like a bird taking flight. A space, where you spread out all limbs. We discussed, what we wanted of such a space.
What would you do there? How would you be as a person in such a space? Angry? Grounded?  

 

We went to the forest, because the city feels dominated by other forces. Squares and parks in cities are kept and controlled. Could we create something different? 

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 From the happening 'SISTER - WHERE DO YOU SPREAD YOUR WINGS?' July 2020

Photos by Amine Kromann Karacan and Signe Ververs Lübke. Painting and hats by Amanda Schwarzfeldt

The happening largely consisted of exercises provided by Signe and Amine. Firstly,  
Signe, who is a therapist working with the body, guided a couple of exercises of movement and mind, which consisted of different meditation techniques and sessions where we had to mirror each others movements and switch between leading and listening in the 'conversation' of our bodies. We also took inspiration in the painting Blue Wings, spreading our arms out and flapping our wings in a dance. Bobbing our heads. 
The exercises of the body and mind made us receptive and energetic. Small details in tree trunks stood out clearly, and there was a more open passage connecting mind and senses, which made the surrounding forest seem closer and greener.

 From the happening 'SISTER - WHERE DO YOU SPREAD YOUR WINGS?' July 2020

Photos and video by Amine Kromann Karacan and Signe Ververs Lübke. Painting and hats by Amanda Schwarzfeldt

We ended our session by doing several writing exercises provided by Amine. Amine had prepared three subjects to inspire our writing and imagination and gave us pieces of paper to write on scented with different herbs. The subjects she had prepared related to the space we wanted to create together or our wishes and dreams. We lay down on the ground, and as we had just done the body and mind exercises we felt open and relaxed and we rapidly expressed our thoughts and images on the paper not minding if what we wrote was brutal, ridiculous or odd. See an extract below from one of the writing exercises with the subject 'Impossible Dream'. 

Extract from writing exercise IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

 

"I'm a huge giant, a Jætte. My legs are gray, heavy trees. I'm strong as a warrior. My vagina is enormous and I can capture the whole world in it if I want to, and then everything will be quiet in the cosmos. Besides for my loud laughs."


- Amanda
 

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The three sculptures 'BIRD WOMEN'

Installation and talk on the 27th of July 2020

at Deep Forest Art Land, Denmark 

For this project I made three sculptures of women or 'sisters' mostly using fast drying clay. They are these hybrids between women and birds with elongated bodies in flight.

 

I had the opportunity to show this work at the artist run exhibition space for sculptures Deep Forest Art Land in Denmark. Deep Forest Art Land won in 2020 the Danish BKF price for the artist run exhibition space of the year. With more than 25.000 visitors each year the space challenges many perceptions on how to engage and showcase art. In the forest the art is shown on the premises of nature, which means trees might obscure the sculptures in time, and artists have to work with the options provided by their surroundings. There are no descriptions of the work either, and the visitors have to find the pieces themselves. If people found BIRD WOMEN during my showcase of the sculptures and talk it would be like stumbling upon this meeting of three sisters by chance, who where just minding their own bird business in the forest.

Attached to braided strings they hung in the trees swaying close to a brook, where visitors could spot them at a bend on their way trough the forest. Around midday I gathered some visitors who had shown interest in the sculptures and gave a short talk followed by questions and conversation.   

 

 

INSTALLATION VIEW
BIRD WOMEN
Mixed Media, 2020
The three sculptures FUGLEKVINDER (BIRD WOMEN) shown here at Deep Forest Art Land, Denmark

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BIRD WOMEN
The two last pictures are from the talk I did upon exhibiting the sculptures

Photo by Mads Gylling Safeldt, 2020

Talk on BIRD WOMEN

As part of the showcase of the sculptures I did a talk on the cultural and historical significance of bird women. These are some of the points I addressed: 

 

... following the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas the story of bird women starts really early in European history, with figurines and imagery of women with animal features - often birds -  with either wings, beaks or bird feet going back many thousand years. Gimbutas named the image of bird women  'Bird Goddesses'. She also came up with the controversial theory, that Europe for thousands of years have been a culture of nature- and Goddess worshipers.

Then something changed historically - and we started a long journey of 'modern' cultures who dominates nature and subordinate women. Man above nature. Man above woman.

We can't know, how our ancestors thousand of years ago thought or lived. It is though clear, that we lost the Bird Goddesses. But for the first time in many hundred years some cultures have started to become (again) more egalitarian when it comes to gender. And at the same time, we are growing concerned with nature and ecology. Nature and women took the same fall in history - are they going to rise up together again? 

 

We can start by saying: "BIRD WOMEN: Come, Come!"

 © 2023 by Amanda Schwarzfeldt

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