During a behind the scenes tour of the Zoology Department at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I learned that DMNS encourages artists’ to develop works based on their collections. Captivated by the drawers and drawers of bird skins in the Ornithology section, I made an appointment to come in and photograph skins of birds either certainly extinct, or believed to be extinct. This was in 2011. Since then, I have found great pleasure in reading different accounts, ranging from essays to encyclopedic style entries, about the seven birds featured, along with several other species of extinct birds. I have considered that the continued existence of these birds in the form of skins, specimens and eggs at museums worldwide, is perhaps indicative of a human tendency to preserve remains rather than protect life. I also consider that both impulses, to protect as well as preserve, are as much a part of contemporary endeavor as statistic gathering. Preservation, along with advances in the science of cloning, has some pondering the startling possibility that extinct creatures might be reborn. Preservation, and the work of writers such as Christopher Cokinos (Hope is the Thing With Feathers) and Errol Fuller (Extinct Birds) give many extinct bird species at a chance at another form of life. A life lived through story. As Cokinos writes in his introductory remarks We may never restore vanished birds through the promise of cloning . . . But we can restore…we can restory…these vanished birds to our consciousness.
Extinct Extant features seven bird species: Bachman’s Warbler, Carolina Parakeet, Dusky Seaside Sparrow, Eskimo Curlew, Heath Hen, Ivory Billed Woodpecker and the Passenger Pigeon. Provided for each species are a photograph of skins held in the collection of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Zoology Department, a brief synopsis of their existence, attributes and habits, a map of their geographical range, a reproduction of a painting of the species by either John James Audubon or Mark Catesby, their scientific classification, binomial name, conservation status, the etymology of the bird’s common name and a listing of the species’ collective nouns.
Materials Various papers, 2mm coroplast, book cloth, book board, vintage brown kraft photo envelopes, digital and solid color prints, black ink
Alicia Bailey is a studio artist working across multiple disciplines. She has focused on book arts and assemblage since the mid-nineties, producing artists’ books, sculptural books and limited edition books. Her work embraces a wide variety of methods and materials. It has been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibits throughout the world and is held in numerous public, private and special collections. An archive of her work in the book arts is under development at Penrose Special Collections, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado. Alicia is also owner/director at Abecedarian Gallery in Denver. The gallery, located in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, has an ongoing commitment to and focus on book arts and works on paper.