Garment District Plazas
Broadway between 41st & 36th Sts.
Through April 30 (all events free with advance RSVP)
“Chocolate and Roses” tour February 14 at 3:00
avian avatars slideshow
This rather cold and bleak winter hasn’t stopped a group of very large, determined birds from migrating to the Garment District and nesting right smack on Broadway. Married couple and artistic collaborators Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein have placed five monumental sculptures between Thirty-Sixth and Forty-First Streets, giant birds constructed from found materials both natural (maple saplings) and machine-made (various repurposed plastic objects). Since 2010, Dodson and Moerlein, as the Myth Makers, have been installing public projects inspired by nature and wildlife throughout the Northeast and other locations. They work primarily with new-growth saplings, culling them from forestry sites and then steaming and bending the wood, weaving them into beautiful arcs and outlines. For “Avian Avatars,” the first winter installation sponsored by the Garment District Alliance, the Myth Makers have incorporated a New York City sensibility into the works, which stand between eighteen and twenty-six feet high, each one accompanied by an inspirational quote by a famous figure. At the north end is the Scold, a crow whose feathers are made of yellow “caution” and “cuidado” tape, sending out a warning to all comers in two languages. According to Dodson and Moerlein’s mythology, the crow is “a raucous chatterbox [that] has an opinion on everything.” Feel free to step inside for a different kind of view while considering this pearl from Henry David Thoreau: “I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life….” One block south is an owl known as the Great Spirit, whose fur is made of white and brown plastic bags snapping in the breeze. Described as “a humble leader [that] embraces the strengths and weaknesses of humanity,” the Great Spirit gazes intensely over the city as it shares this thought from Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can [each] do small things with great love.”
Next up is the falcon called the Taste Maker, boasting a dark black head (made from burned saplings) and a body covered in thin plastic tubing. The Myth Makers consider the falcon to be “an uncompromising harbinger of taste,” explaining that “the critic is not a populist,” and they relate the bird to something Ayn Rand once said: “The truth is not for all . . . but only for those who seek it.” The Realist is that favorite New York City flying icon, the red-tailed hawk, in this case showing off a glorious plumage composed of red plastic barricade fencing that is so familiar on construction sites. “Everyone has a killer instinct, a desire to fly, and an ambition to achieve their fifteen minutes of fame,” the Myth Makers proclaim, while Bruce Springsteen adds some words to live by: “When it comes to luck, you make your own.” The final bird is a proud Victoria crowned pigeon called the Tourist, its feathers formed by golf clubs with colorful handles, while purple plastic pieces sit atop its head, affirming its royalty. Its legend states, “Visitors drawn to this vibrant city shape culture with their impulsive consumer behavior,” while Malcolm Gladwell adds, “Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.”
As with all of the Myth Makers’ work, “Avian Avatars” is temporary, although it will not go up in flames as so many of their other projects are designed to do. The five birds will continue roosting on Broadway through April, as the snow melts away and spring is on the horizon. Several of the pieces can be entered, so feel free to walk inside; don’t be surprised if you’re sharing space with real birds, as sparrows twitter and flit through the wooden shapes. A thoroughly congenial pair, Dodson and Morelein will be hosting a series of special events, all free with advance RSVP, in conjunction with the installation, which brings a playful life to the area. On February 14 at 3:00, they will be presenting a romantic Valentine’s Day “Chocolate and Roses” tour; be sure to ask them about how they met. After the tour, they will head over to Harlow at 109 East Fifty-Sixth St. to inaugurate their “Love Birds” indoor installation, complete with a reception and cocktail party. On March 7, they will give a tour for Armory Arts Week. On March 25, they will team up for a behind-the-scenes conversation at 3:00 and will then discuss public art projects at the Artists Talk on Art panel at the Jefferson Market Library at 6:00, followed by a Q&A. And on April 24, they will give their last tour as part of International Sculpture Day, shortly before “Avian Avatars” flies away for good.