Big Bird Transformation: Bird to Boy
EXHIBITION:Barry Herem: Solo Exhibition
Big Bird with Transforming Twins represents Raven in full frontal view. Raven is the chief shape-shifter of them all, and in the story of “Raven Steals the Sun” he transforms twice: once from his bird form to a boy, and then from boy back to bird. In this work, Raven is in the center, and flanking him are those transformations: on the left is Raven turning into a boy; on the right is boy turning back into Raven.
In the story, Raven hears of a great chieftain who is keeping all light in the world (the sun, moon and stars) locked up in a chest. Raven decides to steal the light, and so connives to get himself into the chief’s home. He locates the chief’s daughter, and transforms himself into a pine needle, which drops into her cup. She becomes pregnant with Raven, and he is born into a boy form, becoming the chieftain’s grandson. The figure over Raven’s left shoulder in this piece shows Raven transforming into his boy form: it has human hands, remnant talons attached to his human leg, and has a full mouth and eye.
As the grandson, Raven is able to break into the chieftain’s chest and grab the sources of light, but in order to carry them away he must turn back into his Raven form. Flanking the other side of Raven, then, is the more bird-like twin. This figure has a downturned mouth which represents the re-emergence of Raven’s beak as he re-transforms himself into his full bird form. In addition, an open eye and a bird-like leg connect to his talon.
Other works in this series show the Bird-to-Boy and Boy-to-Bird figures separately, not connected by the large Raven in the center.