Semester of Graduation

Spring 2018

Degree

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Art Department

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Scattered Feathers is the story of a ghost that lives in the imagination now: the ivory-billed woodpecker. Those that know this bird call it the God Bird or Grail Bird because of its mythic stature. This thesis is also a story about the loss and obsession that can fuel human pursuits. It is a study in observation and subsequent mythmaking, an examination of extinction and preservation. Perhaps most of all it is a chronicle of entropy and the cyclical nature of our existence. The visual work herein examines the mythos of the ivory-billed woodpecker, its once pristine environment and the act of searching for an extinct species. Some disciples are certain that the ivory-billed woodpecker has recently been spotted in the forests surrounding Tallulah, Louisiana and other sites in Florida and Arkansas after a nearly 70-year absence due to deforestation. The tantalizing evidence, reminiscent of other mythical controversies, spurred an intense search by researchers and enthusiasts attempting to document the reemergence of an extinct species. Sightings have been made but never substantiated conclusively. The God Bird is a specter that haunts the forests and the fields around Tallulah, it is a divine messenger heard only by the faithful. It serves as a symbol of human existential dilemma and as a cautionary tale for all endangered species. The ivory-billed woodpecker is also an entryway into the worlds of avian observation and conservation, acts that provide insight into the history of the Mississippi Delta and the ever-present tension between growth and oblivion that is manifest there, and wherever man seeks to overtake nature.

Date

4-4-2018

Committee Chair

Ariaz, Jeremiah

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