Heath Hen, by Sara Angelucci
SARA ANGELUCCI Art Gallery of York University (4700 Keele, Accolade East building, 416-736-5169), to June 16. See listing.
Sara Angelucci has always worked at the intersection of photography and memory. Having collected carte de visite portraits of unknown Victorians, the Ryerson prof recalled a quote that compared capturing a memory to catching a bird in an aviary, and imagined a woman from her collection as a bird.
Connecting forgotten people to disappearing species, she started researching and photographing extinct and endangered birds at the ROM.
"I wasn't sure which face and which bird would go together. But as I began to work in Photoshop, I realized the birds also have a kind of soul, so I had to find the souls that matched."
To achieve the complex layering of feathers over faces, she took lessons to augment her basic Photoshop skills.
Experimenting with scale (cartes de visite are about the size of postcard), she made a 40-inch print. "It looked like a big scary monster. I wanted something much more intimate."
She eventually made the heads slightly smaller than an actual human's.
"All the eyes are human. That was really important, because when you look at another creature that you understand, it gives you more empathy," she says. "Once I'd created them, I had to say, ‘Who are they now?' We haven't made space in the world for other creatures. We haven't understood their suffering and their plight. I began to think they're spiritual beings in a state of empathy."
Prints in The Aviary are part of Provenance Unknown, an installation that also incorporates video, audio and objects.