Birds of a Feather
April 25-May 20, 2023
Opening reception: April 27 5-8 pm
Ziggy the Blind Parrot, 16" x 16" x 5", Air-dry clay,
wood, acrylic and oil paint
“Birds of a Feather,” a collection of paintings, high-relief paintings, and papier-mâché sculptures, celebrates birds and one woman’s passionate connection to them. At sanctuaries and zoos, as she drew birds who never should have been bred as pets or held in captivity, Jenny Toth experienced intense feelings about confinement, both in their world and in hers. She realized the human contradictions of loving and admiring animals, while keeping them in cages for entertainment, education or companionship. Her art reflects these feelings.
Jenny Toth has always loved all animals, especially donkeys, elephants, and octopuses—subjects that have been in other shows! But she never felt much affinity to birds until she started volunteering at the Wildlife Bird Fund in New York City.
Then she lost her heart to a very special bird. When her family spent the summer of 2019 in San Miguel de Allende Mexico, she met a beautiful scarlet Macaw with an outsize personality. Chapo lived alone in an outdoor cage at a nearby restaurant. Adequately tended but mostly ignored, he quickly formed an attachment to the artist who kept returning to draw him—and talk to him. The attachment was mutual. She spent as much time as she could with Chapo. When the restaurant was closed, he would scream out to her in loneliness when she walked by. In some of these works of art, a viewer may perhaps hear those echoes.
On the left, starting the relief sculpture of Ziggy (blind scarlet macaw on left) and on the right, of Pickles (military macaw).
[Since Chapo was an endangered species, she could not adopt him and bring him across the border. Later Toth learned that he was moved to another facility, where he bonded with a female bird and shared her cage.]
In Mexico Toth started working on a large papier-mâché sculpture of Chapo. She now intends to create a papier-mâché zoo of animals, which can be subjects in future paintings. The second animal in this project is the rhinoceros in the exhibit.
Above: Chapo, the Scarlet Macaw on the left, and Jenny Toth with the start of her papier-mâché of Chapo on the right, in San Miguel de Allende 2019
Much of the work in “Birds of a Feather” began with drawings and air-dry clay relief sculptures done on site at Free Flight, a nonprofit parrot sanctuary in Del Mar, California. This sanctuary cares for unwanted or relinquished former pets. Here Toth studied and befriended several birds as she learned to work from a moving subject. As she completed her works in the studio, she incorporated self-portraiture, implying a yearning for a deep connection to her subjects.
Having studied at the Yale School of Art and the New York Studio School, Jenny Toth’s formal training is evident in her use of color and space in her three-dimensional paintings. Originally conceived as models to paint from, theses relief paintings eventually became their own finished body of work.
Even in two large paintings here, done at a condominium pool in California, Toth is intrigued by the feeling of enclosure and captivity. Although a body of water is natural— the uncontainable ocean is only a short walk away--this small pool is man-made. It is carefully guarded by fences and gates, with wild trees and sky surrounding it.
Thirty per cent of all profits from this show will be donated to Free Flight in recognition of the good work they do.