Beth Moon

Augurs and Soothsayers
December 1 — 31, 2010

These chicken portraits were created to mirror a union of unlikely opposites. The common image of a banal barnyard animal is juxtaposed with exotic varieties. Automated uniformity contrasts unique individualism, views of how this bird was viewed from ancient times to present, draws on both myth and mass production.

The images are stripped down to minimal essentials, undistracted by color. Not many details are necessary to portray an essence. A large aperture creates a shallow depth of field. Hand coating large sheets of heavy cotton water color paper with platinum and palladium metals further abstracts the images, resulting in tones of warm black, soft gray and brown.

Photographed out of their natural environment, unique features become more apparent. The enlarged scale of these portraits is not purely for ornithological study, but rather allows us to see ourselves existing in their scale.  As we look into the eyes of these birds, the bird looks back. Direct eye contact enables the viewed and the viewer to connect in dialogue.

As one of the oldest forms of fortune telling, augury is the art of foreseeing future events by observing the behavior of birds.  In ancient times birds were at the center of man’s existence. In Augustan Rome it was believed that chickens were the divine messengers of the gods and political decisions were based according to the chicken’s behavior.

Susan Squier writes, “Augury is a type of knowledge-making about present and future that is in danger of disappearing in the 21st century: the knowledge gained by intimate relations with animals.”

Today’s augury is a new mode of awareness, recognizing a need to re-connect our relationship with animals built around honor, crucial to ongoing life, human health, and cultural ritual.