January 16, 2009 / 8:49 AM / in 9 years

Australian artist uses plumage as paint

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - It doesn’t matter if they’ve been killed by cats, cars, catchers or natural causes, Emily Valentine Bullock loves dead birds and their feathers.

Proclaiming plumage to be her paint, the Australian artist has created award-winning sculptures out of feathers, including a popular “dog flu” series that featured a “Budgie Beagle,” a “Pair of Pugcocks,” a “Mynah Collie” and a “Boxikeet.”

“I go through many birds a year and I also buy feathers to fluff my work up,” Bullock told Reuters.

“The dogs have been very popular, because they’re very pretty and very approachable, cute and sweet and all that,” she said.

On her website, Bullock said her work was intended to question how society classifies birds and animals -- pets? pests? valuable? worthless? -- and whether attitudes to wearing animals and birds have changed.

As well as buying feathers, Bullock said she used to rely on donated dead pets, birds she found by the side of the road or those killed by cats, but supply was sporadic at best.

So, for the past couple of years, she has deliberately sought to catch and kill mynahs, considered a pest and a threat to native Australian birds and wildlife, roping in her suburban friends to help her as she lives in a city apartment.

In 2007, they gave her about 130 birds.

“One bird usually makes up one dog,” she said, adding that the creatures sell at galleries for about A$1,000 ($662).

Bullock then freezes the dead birds and plucks them. If she needs to use their heads or other parts, she goes to a taxidermist.

Bullock believes her creations are enhanced by her training as a jeweler. The death of her own pet budgies inspired her to make “Budgerigar Brassieres” which won her an award in New Zealand and featured the preserved birds’ heads over the nipples.

She is currently working on a new exhibition, due to open on January 30 at the University of Sydney, called “Mynah Messiah” which involves Pharaonic-style God-like figure with Barbie doll bodies, mynah heads and feather embellishments.

Bullock’s works are also currently on display at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds Gallery and the Brenda May Gallery.

emilyvalentine.com.au/

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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