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Thomas Brennan
Collecting Feathers

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Thomas Brennan, Flamingoes, Gelatin silver contact print, 2011, Edition 1/8, Signed verso.

Phoenicopterus ruber, female, Andros, Bahama Is., May 1, 1902
Phoenicopterus ruber, male, Andros, Bahama Is., May 16, 1902
Coll. by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Phoenicopterus chilensis, male, Puno, Peru, Nov. 27, 1938
Phoenicopterus chilensis, female, Puno, Peru, Nov. 27, 1938
Coll. by J. Adger Smyth
Courtesy of Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates

Artist Statement
Photogenic drawing refers to William Henry Fox-Talbot’s descriptive term for his earliest images on paper. As was the case with Fox-Talbot’s prints, my work in Collecting Feathers is the result of shadows cast by objects onto light-sensitive paper. Because the objects, birds in my case, are placed in contact with paper, there is no change of scale, no use of lens-based perspective. I work within the rendering possibilities provided by light and silver; with shape, edge, space, and orientation my principal pictorial concerns.

Contemporaneous with Fox-Talbot’s experiments, artists were illustrating birds and taxidermists were preparing birds for museum display, in each case addressing new expectations for representations of the natural world. The birds used for Collecting Feathers were collected during a period when animated poses, pedestals, and taxonomic tagging were prevalent practices. I use the historic activities of collection and display to create images that exist as formal abstractions and as poetic meditations upon the nature of representation.

Imaging of the birds in Collecting Feathers is by permission from and courtesy of the Redpath Museum, McGill University; the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University; the American Museum of Natural History; and Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates.

Artist Bio
Thomas Brennan earned an MFA from the University of Arizona and is presently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Vermont. His research has been supported with grants from the University of Vermont, Artist Fellowships from the Vermont Arts Council, and residencies at New York University through the Faculty Resource Network. His photographs have been exhibited at Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies; University of California at Berkeley Extension Gallery in San Francisco; Fleming Museum; University of New Brunswick Art Centre; John Michael Kohler Art Center; and Galleria Francisco Oller at Universidad de Puerto Rico.