Rara Avis in Latin means “rare bird”. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, it is defined as “a rare or unique person or thing.”
I believe this phrase, which in itself is rarely used, represents my point of view and my art.
Rare — My art and films are about the rare, ephemeral and fleeting. That which cannot be easily seen or witnessed, but holds value nonetheless. My first film STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE tells the story of a rare Hawaiian bird, the Palila. About 1,500 exist in the wild, a single flock lives on the highest mountain in the world in the most remote archipelago in the world. The fact the Palila is critically endangered and difficult to see should make it of greater interest, but alas it is only true for birders, enthusiasts who spend vast amounts of time and money to see the rarest of the rare. Bird people, I’ve discovered, are a unique breed; they more than any other keep “life lists” to track the species they’ve seen, and value which is most rare without killing it or attempting to own it.
Bird – I love birds. If I were to pick an animal that best represents me, I would say a bird. A tiny, fast-moving forest dweller since I imagine myself living in a great big old tree. Like the Italo Calvino book “The Baron in the Trees” it tells a story of a boy “who climbs up a tree to spend the rest of his life inhabiting an arboreal kingdom and never touch the earth.” An artist friend once said I was like a bird. She wrote:
“Because you love birds and because you remind me to pause. to listen . to breathe, to look. to be patient. it is no surprise your love of birds and their lightness of being.”
I feel that is true, their very lightness and being unbound to the Earth is much like my wanderlust spirit and energy. I move quickly, I don’t stay in one place very long, and need my freedom, independence and open air to feel like I am home. I also like to sing, so perhaps I would be some kind of shy songbird that likes basking in the sunshine and in a moment flits away to find food.
Rara Avis – This is the quality of what my work aims to achieve, to find a dirty nugget of gold, raw uncut gemstone, and seeing its exquisite, unique glow beneath a banal rock-face. Like a Zen garden, my drawings, videos and sculptures engage the viewer to look closely and see the beauty in the simple and ordinary. HOUSE OF GLASS, a video installation, captures the unseen hands that enable a tropical garden to flourish in a wintery Northern Irish landscape. During my art residency, I became enamored with this forest growing inside a 200 year old Victorian greenhouse. I befriended the caretaker, a shy fellow named Derek, who exclusively planted and tended to t tropical palms, flowers and ferns. At dusk, I projected video of the balmy humid interior of the greenhouse onto its ancient, mildewed facade in midwinter and invited locals to rediscover this hidden paradise in their city.
In this amazing world we live in, I see much beauty and love. We in Hawaii are lucky to live in a place many consider “Paradise on Earth.” Yet I see a cycle of extinction here that continues to today, of a culture that diminishes the value of that which is less showy and “useful”. That which disinherits the Earth as being part of us, yet we are OF the earth in ways that are obvious to native Hawaiians. Through my work, I try to shine a light on that which is forgotten yet vitally important in its subdued quiet special “thingness”.
I do not think of myself as being “Rara Avis”. “Rara Avis” means to ask “What makes every person or thing unique and rare? What is your unique perspective and story?”