Three years later: Artist re-paints famed bird of paradise

Written by Ayelet Kapadia, CNN London Written by Ayelet Kapadia, CNN London

In 2006, Queensland artist Kerrie Menigh spied a grey rooster standing on a wall in her backyard, pecking at her nepeta fucrocco, a tiny bird endemic to Indonesia.

What better way to express her awareness of the history behind an endangered species of faunal fauna, whose future was in dire danger, than by rehatching a boy and a girl bird she had rescued earlier that year?

“The museum wanted to curate my ‘ambush’ project, so I thought, ‘great, let’s just go and re-animate the bird,'” she says, laughing. “It was quite obvious what a mistake I was making, because they were very precious. They were crockery in my house.”

When Mona Lisa was re-uploaded onto a Florence painting, Peter Paul Rubens’s “Venus and Adonis” goes viral.

Still, she admits the idea for her ultimate prank — to create a male owl by the same tender touch of dyeing a fucrocco — came to her “fairly early on.”

“Then around a year later, my best friend did a bizarre stunt on a white fox, in the same manner,” she continues. “She used a dye gun on the male fox, and just let him roam around for a few hours, and when he died she had [another fox] cleaned up and dyed. It just went up the internet and went crazy.”

Neither friend’s reaction — and neither the fox nor the rooster — survived, however. “You never know, they could live,” notes Menigh. “People make incredible art, and are amazing actors.”

When Argentina’s street artists Move ‘n’ Moire strip graffiti to create pure geometric lines.

She’s referring to the now famous 2007 prank that saw artists Ingrid Chenin and Lita Morrone perform a re-imagining of artist Salvador Dali’s iconic painting “The Persistence of Memory,” with their own house art re-envisioned as “The Persistence of Beard.”

Menigh — whose own personal gallery space is full of reclaimed bronze — wanted to make “a big, feminist statement.” For this one, she settled on a male rooster because “the idea of replacing male anima with female anima sounded cool.”

When asked how she responded to fans’ confusion over her choice, she says, “I’m a feminist and I like to be considered a feminist. However, I think this new faun doesn’t really scream ‘feminist’ because there’s actually quite a bit of superficialness, femininity and femininity is sexualized in the bird.”

The bird, it turns out, is male. Or rather, he would be, if only his sex had been exchanged for that of the painted rooster (or any other cultural staple) that had helped change so much for far too long in the places where he lived.

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