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home : features : features May 25, 2016

5/22/2012 10:59:00 AM
Paper and ice sculptor Deborah Bird to present artist talk Saturday
Deborah Bird stands next to a finished work. Submitted photo
Deborah Bird stands next to a finished work. Submitted photo
“Yucca” by Deborah Bird. Submitted photo
“Yucca” by Deborah Bird. Submitted photo
Rene Westbrook
South Rim Artist in Residence Coordinator

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Deborah Bird, South Rim Artist in Residence for the month of May, will present an artist talk this Saturday at McKee Amphitheater.

From Leicester, England, where she works as an art curriculum and arts education consultant, and as a studio artist, Bird's artwork is wholly unique and inspired by nature. She starts by creating small-scale paper sculptures that are influenced by organic forms - shells, rock formations, tree bark, seed pods - and then she submerges these sculptures in water and freezes them. She then photographs those pieces under various lighting conditions with different backgrounds - full sun on green grass, full moon on stepping-stones, muted sun on snow. The resulting photographs are her finished pieces. Since arriving at the Canyon, she's begun a new body of work called "Paper, Rock, Scissors", which is influenced by the rock formations in the American southwest

In advance of her Grand Canyon residency, Bird received a grant from the British Arts Council, which will underwrite an exhibition about her Grand Canyon Artist-in-Residence experience, with an opening at Creative Hinckley Gallery in Hinckley, Leicester, UK Nov. 23.

Prior to her residency, Deborah worked with 10 and 11-year-old children in her home village on a cultural exchange/art exchange project intended to be shared with the fourth and fifth graders of Grand Canyon Elementary School. The British kids created an impressively elaborate, collaborative, mixed media collage, all about their home village. The collage shows the changing of the seasons and focuses on the landscape and the fun activities that the kids like to do in their village.

Upon arriving at the South Rim, Bird led the same sort of workshop at the South Rim with the fourth and fifth grade kids - they created two collages - one of which will go back with Bird as a gift to the children of Leicester, and the other will stay here and be a companion piece for the UK children's piece. These charming and witty collages can be seen in Park Headquarters, along with an informal example of Deborah's art in process of melting, through the month of May.

"I am particularly drawn to the rock formations and the interplay of light, and see many parallels in my process that link directly to the Grand Canyon," Bird said. "The impact of time, erosion and external organic forces are vital factors in my work. I often use time lapse photography to document sculptures as they shift from a frozen state, through melt, to ultimate collapse. Light brings the sculptural qualities of the landscape to life, and is an essential to the birth of my finished work. I intend to use moonlight in my photographic work while at the Grand Canyon."

Last week, Bird embarked on a four-day inner-Canyon hike, taking her camera and sketchbook along to collect reference images for future inspiration. Her public program will be presented as an Evening Program Saturday at McKee Amphitheater. In this informal artist talk, Deborah will talk about her own work and processes, her hike into the Canyon and how she anticipates how this experience will influence her future studio work. A lively and fun speaker, Bird's talk is all-ages friendly and free. Mark your calendar and come out to meet Bird, and learn how the experience as a National Park Artist-in-Residence has impacted her studio work and worldview.

For more information about the Grand Canyon Artist-in-Residence programs, please visit For more information on Bird and her work, visit

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