It’s the eyes that get you. Staring out from yellowed portraits, they follow your gaze. Then you notice they’re surrounded by a delicate smattering of feathers. The subjects are, it turns out, half-person, half-bird. These hybrid creatures form Aviary, the first half of Provenance Unknown, Toronto artist Sara Angelucci’s new show.
Inspiration came when Angelucci started purchasing 19th-century “carte de visite” snapshots on eBay. (These small portraits, given out to friends and new acquaintances, were the Facebook profile photos of the day.) She was fascinated by the idea of some anonymous spirit, preserved for all time within these images. As she looked at the subjects’ elaborate costumes (including the odd feather or two), they began to transform into birds before her eyes.
She then headed to the Royal Ontario Museum, where she photographed taxidermied endangered and extinct North American birds to overlay on the cards via a painstaking Photoshop process.
Sound fills the second half of the exhibit, The Anonymous Chorus. Angelucci worked with a choral group to create music based on the work of contemporary composer Charles Ives, interspersing it with primal human sounds. The music plays as an archival family portrait is projected life-size on a wall. “In essence,” she says, “we sing the people back into being.”
From April 10–June 16 at the Art Gallery of York University, as part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.