I was honored to receive the 2013 Mary Sawyers Baker Prize. Sixteen of my photographs will be included in the Baker Artist Awards 2014 exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art, February 26 - April 6. Please, I need your help with the printing and framing costs. The average cost of having each photograph printed and framed is $237.50.
I’d like to tell you how my project came about and why it is important.
It started when I was a child.
My dad was a landscape gardener and he wasn't happy unless he was out-of-doors. He passed that on to all of his children. He would point out wildlife to us and he made friends with our yard birds. He took in injured animals and nursed them back to health. He instilled an appreciation in us for other species and explained how biodiversity supports us all.
I seriously got into birding about ten years ago. I began looking for migrants and learning their songs. Thrushes have gorgeous flute-like melodies. I love warblers with their bright colors and feeding acrobatics as they hunt for insects. It's astonishing to think of these small creatures being strong enough to fly thousands of miles to feeding and breeding grounds. It's a beautiful thing to walk through various habitats and know what's there by listening. It's a gift when they show themselves.
After I moved to Baltimore, I joined the Baltimore Bird Club (BBC). I enjoyed the guided walks and lectures, and I learned to identify additional songs from experienced birders, but I wanted to give something back to the birds. I wanted to do something to ensure their continued survival. I volunteered for Lights Out Baltimore (LOB) which is an offshoot of the BBC.
I learned about the terrible cost of building strikes during migration, spring and fall. Anywhere from 300,000 to a billion birds die annually from these collisions. Birds migrate at night and they guide themselves in part by constellations. Light pollution draws them into cities where they become disoriented. They perceive glass differently than we do. They get confused in manmade canyons of invisible barriers and it's fatal. They fly into glass.
I love birds so much. They bring us so much pleasure. They provide insect control, weed control, seed dispersal, scavenging to reduce disease, and pollination. I can't say enough good things about them. Watching birds relieves stress and their energetic displays are life-affirming.
LOB seeks to educate the public about the hazards large expanses of plate glass pose to birds. We monitor downtown during migrations and collect data on bird mortality. We take injured birds to a wildlife rehabilitator. We collect fatalities and they go to researchers.
I wanted to do more. I am an artist.
It wasn't only a matter of documenting the important work LOB does. Statistics can be abstract, so I decided on portraiture. I wanted to emphasize the loss of individual birds as well as show their astonishing beauty. It's heartbreaking to hold a dying bird in your hand. In my work, I want to honor these victims as well as inform about the issue. I've also taken photographs of buildings and windows to give an idea of what birds are up against.
Post-mortem photography was popular in the 19th century and it was a way to memorialize loved ones. This effort hearkens to that sentiment. These birds are very special to me.
I need your help covering the costs of printing and framing. I need to get these images ready to show so that they can promote changes that help birds. I hope these images encourage you to turn down the lights and find ways to cause visible disruptions in windows so that we can all continue to appreciate them. We need to restore habitat and keep our cats indoors as well.
I hope you’ll support my project.
Risks and challenges
I volunteer with Lights Out Baltimore and each migration brings new fatalities and injuries. I have a growing collection of images, I have been honored with a prize, but I need to promote my work. I have an opportunity to show it and I need to make that happen.
Cancer is my biggest challenge. I don't think any of us have any illusions about the toll cancer takes financially. My prize money allowed me to buy a new camera and fix the roof, but the rest went to medical expenses.
Chemotherapy dulls my mind and weakens my body. A lot of my time is spent researching treatments and managing the illness and its complications. A lot of my time is spent seeing doctors and undergoing scans and having tests.
It takes time away from my creative efforts.
How will I overcome this challenge? Determination. A will to contribute to something bigger than myself. My cancer appeared when I was fourteen. That was thirty-three years ago. I'm still here and I'm still producing work.
This exhibition will help me in my efforts to promote my work and worthy issues. Please help me accomplish this. Let's keep the momentum going so that it can become self-sustaining.
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- (30 days)