Cuckoo: The Orphan
This is one of four ensembles I created for my art installation at the Oceanside Museum of Art, Birds of a Different Feather. The installation features male garments as the centerpieces of dioramas portraying different bird-inspired characters. In addition to the stationary installation pieces, I took the garments out for a photo shoot because I felt that gallery mannequins wouldn’t capture the mood of the story. Model: CovNasty. Photographer: Zim Killgore.
This character was inspired by cuckoo birds. Did you know that all cuckoos are orphans? Cuckoos don't have nest-building abilities, so the mother lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, and the chick is raised by the unwitting foster parents. What's incredible is that all adult cuckoos sing the same song, regardless of the species of their foster parents, and cuckoos innately know how to find a mate and lay their eggs in another victim's nest, thus continuing the parasitic cycle. The fact that the chicks never meet their biological parents means that these complex behaviors are written in their DNA.
My work, "Cuckoo: The Orphan," portrays the cuckoo bird as a human. Without the guidance of loving parents, the orphan boy grows into an independent man, eccentric, introspective, and maybe a little arrogant ... but there's something mysterious and sexy about him. The uncertainty draws us in. He is an artist, and though he creates beautiful things, there is an element of self-doubt, a question of whether or not he is making any real contribution to society. He is always searching for his identity. He peels back the layers -- the masks imposed onto him by other flock members-- only to find that he is himself, and that he is defined by his desire to understand himself. It's no wonder "cuckoo" is synonymous with "crazy." Perhaps the next generation will fare better.
The jester jumpsuit inside the tailcoat represents the nature of an identity crisis: just like a clown, the actor may be hiding inner turmoil behind a humorous disguise. The tailcoat fabric is a design of my own; I sketched out cuckoos and clocks and digitized them into a repeating pattern, then got the cotton custom printed. This design represents the cuckoo’s generational recursive nature and endless cyclical dance with time.
We did the photo shoot in the desert sands. Sand is a symbol of the passage of time, a reminder that all of us will one day become dust in the wind. The sands represent the lost soul’s obsession with time: a lifetime is too short to find oneself. For the art gallery installation, I settled for the wings of “Pinion Queen” as another representation of time travel. (I doubt the museum would be very happy about me pouring sand all over their gallery floor haha.)
The antique briefcase radio plays a cuckoo-inspired song. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/astraycatalyst/who-is-the-man-on-the-moon
Check out the other three birds from my exhibit:
This art installation went on display at the Mesa Community College Art Gallery (see video) in San Diego in May 2022 and is now available (email me!).