Rachel Berwick

A Vanishing; Martha
2003 - 2005
Dimensions: 13'H X 30' W X 30'D
Materials: cast copal (amber), brass, lights, shadow

Project Venues:
2003 The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
2004 26th Bienal de Sao Paolo, Brazil
2005 Salt Lake City Arts Center, University of Utah’s        Symposium on Science and Literature

The Passenger Pigeon, once the most plentiful species of bird to inhabit North America, is now most famous for its loss.  Flocks of thousands were often seen well into the 19th century.  By 1907, this species was reduced to a handful of survivors and by 1910 all but one had died.  Martha a twenty-five year old Passenger Pigeon in the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens was the sole survivor of her species.  Thus she remained until
September 1, 1914 when Martha died, marking the end
of the species.

This installation is inspired by the manner in which the passenger pigeon disappeared.  It is comprised of four key elements; 500 cast amber passenger pigeons (cast from a preserved specimen), brass rods, light, and shadow. Amber bird casts are suspended on a series of thin brass rods.  The rods are suspended vertically, at regular intervals, to form two rows that intersect in the middle of the space.  Although each rod is the same length (extending from the ceiling almost to the floor) the number of bird casts placed on each rod varies.  The bird casts placed on the outer most rods (near each corner of the room) have the most birds.  The number of birds placed on each successive rod gradually reduces.  The center most rod, located where the two rows intersect, has only one bird, signifying Martha and her status as the last of her kind.

A Vanishing; Martha
A Vanishing; Martha