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Canadian Artist of the Week
LOOK AT THIS: The Haunting Bird People People Of Sara Angelucci
July 19, 2014
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LOOK AT THIS is a weekly series featuring the work of Canadian artists, designers and creators of all sorts.

Name: Sara Angelucci

Born: Hamilton, ON in 1962 (or as she put it to us, "oh, on a lovely day in June!")

Lives and works: "Fabulous downtown Toronto"

Her work: Sara Angelucci's series Aviary is an attempt to connect "lost birds" with "lost people." The lost people are the subjects of 19th-century visiting cards ("I liken them to the Facebook of their day") that Angelucci had been collecting for years. "Christian Boltanski, an artist I greatly admire, once said, '… you die twice. You die when you die, and you die a second time when someone picks up your photo and no one knows who you are,'" she told "And then I came across a theory of memory that said in ancient times to locate a specific memory was equated with trying to locate a bird in an aviary filled with birds." Hence the lost birds: extinct and endangered species she photographed from the Royal Ontario Museum's ornithology collection. The series also evokes other Victorian-era themes: Spiritualism, séances, avian taxidermy and widespread interest in natural history.

On combining people with birds: "It’s interesting, at first, before I began to take the bird photos, it was all about the people," she said. "But once I began photographing the birds, I realized that I had to find the right person to go with the bird. Their inter-relationship became very important and I developed this deep connection and love of the birds." Actually combining the two images took a serious upgrade of her Photoshop chops. "I had pretty basic colour balancing skills, but this project demanded I take my skill set to a whole new level! Each image is approximately 50 layers."

What is it about birds?: Angelucci mused about why birds are so captivating for their human observers. "They are omnipresent in both urban and natural environments, so they are always part of our daily experience. Flight itself is something that we greatly admire. And although as humans we can travel by air, it’s not the same as flying like a bird. Then of course there are the beautiful sounds that songbirds make. And, they’re beautiful to look at too. So on so many sensory levels, birds capture our attention and imagination."

Another Canadian artist she admires: Spring Hurlbut, the Toronto-based installation artist, photographer and sculptor whom Angelucci appeared with in a conversation as part of her recent residency at the Art Gallery of Ontario. "Spring’s work has always had a deep connection with our mortality," she said. "On an emotional, visual, and intellectual level I have always felt a deep kinship with it."

Angelucci is currently working on a group show for Toronto's historic Gibson House, as well as A Mourning Chorus, a performance piece based on the sounds of disappearing songbirds as part of an evening called De-extinction Dialogues at the Royal Ontario Museum on September 26. She'll also be presenting a video installation called The Anonymous Chorus at this year's Nuit Blanche in Toronto as part of an exhibition for entitled "All Together Now."


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