Saturday, September 19, 2009

Birds and Art -- A Trip to the DeCordova Scuplture Park

We had a totally delightful field trip this morning in one of my favorite places....the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. This is one of the friendliest, most enjoyable art places I know. Even though we were meeting at 7 a.m. (which for Mark means get there 30-40 minutes early) the staff had made arrangements to have the gate open and even opened the building where the gift store is so that the bathrooms would be open for everyone! And we were lucky enough to have a very knowledgeable and engaged docent, Noni Armony. As most of you know Mark is as knowledgeable about contemporary art as he is about birds....yet he and Noni partnered perfectly together. The result is that we all enjoyed the 2 hrs. we spent walking around the sculpture park.
The morning was a perfect blend of nature and art and it all worked together wonderfully. The birds were often heard rather than seen, but we ended up with a list of 29 species for the two hours. I've been to DeCordova lots of time, but wandering around looking for birds among the artwork (like these two pieces by Boaz Vaadia) almost seemed magical. It was at this spot that we heard Common Loon calling....never quite sure if it was circling high overhead or actually taking off from the pond at the edge of the park. The photo below of Vaadia's Ba'al almost looks like a B&W photo....and I just love the shadow cast on the birch trunk from the sitting figure.
There were still singing Pine Warblers in the trees right off the parking lot and as I wandered through the grove trying to get a photo of a Pine Warbler, I couldn't resist taking this shot of Nam June Paik's Requiem to the 20th Century.

We were seeing and hearing lots of robins, goldfinches and house finches, but we definitely we not in the midst of a heavy-duty fall migration. While a little disappointing, it allowed time for folks to enjoy Noni talking about Chakaia Booker's No More Milk and Cookies. You really need to go the the DeCordova website and check out the background on the various pieces of art at (if the link doesn't work, just cut and paste it into your browser.)
One of the pieces I've always loved is Listening Stone by Joseph Wheelwright. He actually carved this head from a giant boulder from an excavation on the actual grounds of the DeCordova. I remember about 5 or so years back, they had a full exhibit of his work and it was fun to just walk around all the different heads.
While I was off looking at the giant head, Mark and Noni had the group looking at Jim Dine's Two Big Black Hearts which is amazing once you really get up close to it.
As we left the "South Field" area of the park and moved to the "West Lawn" I was totally surprised to find a Great Spangled Fritillary soaking up sunshine on some nearly rocks.
The temps were still in the low 50's at this point and when she landed you could tell she had seen better days. Not only was she very worn, but you could see where she had lost pieces of her right hind wing -- probably to some enterprising flycatcher (we had phoebes still calling nearby).It the woods just behind Kitty Wales' Pine Sharks we flushed a Red-tailed Hawk who was harassing a nearby squirrel.
These sharks swimming up in the pine grove always seem special. In fact before Mark & I had our surprise wedding-vow-renewal ceremony last year, we had talked about doing a renewal ceremony right in this pine grove under Kitty's sharks. Mark has always wanted to have one of her sharks hanging in our living room, but somehow it just doesn't seem practical!!!
Wandering back to the parking lot we had lots of Chipping Sparrows, both working the birches around the parking lot and sunning themselves along the stone wall lining the lot.
We spent the last 30 minutes of the trip working the birches and managed to turn up several species of warblers, including Black-throated Green, Palm, Blackburnian and Parula. There must have been a bloom of aphids in the birches, because the birds kept coming and going from the small groves lining the steps and paths.
We ended the trip about 9:30 after a totally delightful morning. The folks on the trip were a great mixture -- some hard-core birds, some hard-core art fanatics and a handful of other folks just starting out with birds. It was a great blend and I think everyone had a good time...I know I did!
Driving out past Douglas Kornfeld's OZYMANDIAS I realized just how much I need to come back with my granddaughter, Molly. While we've taken Samantha her a few times, it's Molly who has totally fallen in love with art. So I just want her to experience contemporary art in this wonderful sculpture park rather than in a small "contemporary gallery" stuck inside a bigger, traditional art museum.

I mentioned earlier that you should go the website to see the background on the artwork. FORGET out to Lincoln and go to the DeCordova to experience the artwork yourself. You won't be sorry.


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