Caroline Topham: Bird Stories

Artist Statement

The idea for Bird Stories came into being in the middle of a field on my weekly birdwatching trip, one week after the end of a deeply meaningful relationship. In each of this pair of colored pencil drawings, birds embody an emotional experience that I have gone through since that loss.

Magpie, thief of shiny objects, brings me treasures from an old life to comfort me: little pearls, a door key, a single forgotten sock. He drops these crumbs of yearning around me as I crouch, vulnerable. My pose is more open in Winter Birds, a piece inspired by my love for the small plain birds that remain behind when their brighter cousins fly south. Their perseverance is echoed by the depiction of wild persimmons, which ripen after the first frost. Together they represent spots of simple beauty in the cold times.

Bird Stories is intended to be dreamlike. My nakedness and the lack of a defined background deny any specificity as to time and place. These are feelings, not memories.

Throughout the work I pay special attention to my body, especially the colors in my skin. I build form through repetitive hatched marks and layers of overlapping. The relationship between myself and the birds is central. My body is a site of attention, touch, and renewal, while the birds (my feelings embodied) come to me as a force outside of myself; they are the grief and the hope that have come to visit.

About the Project

  • Title of Work: Bird Stories
  • Medium: Two colored pencil drawings. Winter Birds: 14'' by 24''. Magpie: 16'' by 20''.
  • Student's Name: Caroline Topham
  • Major: Linguistics
  • Anticipated Graduation Date: 24-May
  • Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
  • Student's Mentor: Anna Wehrwein
  • Mentor's Department: Art