Art exhibits usually mean looking but no touching. It was a different story at Katie Creyts exhibit, which was called “I am no bird.” Creyts, who is an assistant professor of art at Whitworth, had three pieces in the exhibit, shared with Shelly Williams.
Creyts’ biggest piece was a series of glass parrots hanging from the ceiling. Each parrot has a string hanging from it, which viewers are encouraged to pull in order to hear audio. Each parrot plays a recording of Creyts saying something.
The inspiration for this piece came during a trip to southern California.
“It was a quiet morning and I heard this screeching, clattering sound overhead,” Creyts said.
The sound was coming from a flock of parrots that are not indigenous to the area, but stay there because they like it and don’t have many predators, Creyts said.
The flock of parrots was only half the inspiration for Creyts’ exhibit though. The second part came from a trip she took to Oaxaca, Mexico. There she saw lots of tourists gifts, but the ones that caught her eye were birds with wings that moved when a string attached to them was pulled.
“I made a paper model to figure out the mechanics and how it would translate to glass,” Creyts said. “The birds were really alluring and attractive.”
To keep the allure of the birds, Creyts decided to learn how to gild glass, and used a surface treatment to give the birds their gold color.
“It was very labor intensive,” she said. “My fingers were raw by the end.”
Creyts had to cut glass for the bodies and the wings in each parrot. Getting the audio to work for each parrot was also a challenge.
There can be a contrast in parrots—they look pretty but they can sound ugly or grating, and that was something Creyts wanted to highlight.
“You have these alluring birds,” she said. “But what they say is annoying. They say something you don’t want to hear but you can’t help but pull the next one.”
Each bird says something different. Some of the phrases come from people Creyts knows, some were suggestions people gave her, and others she found online. They all say phrases people generally don’t like to hear, like “Is this a bad time?” or “Just so you know…”
“[The birds] say what people say before they say something you don’t want to hear,” Creyts said.
The name of the exhibit, “I am no bird,” came from the novel “Jane Eyre.” Creyts and Williams were trying to find a common theme of both their works, and birds (or geese in Williams case) came to the front.
The name is ironic, according to Creyts.
“We are no birds, but the birds are us in the show,” she said.