Augury practice inspires artists

Mackenzie Bookamer, Arcade Editor

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced society to adapt to a new set of circumstances, altering many of the perspectives we carried prior to the pandemic. Drawing from this ideology, artists Lee Deigaard, Nikita Gale, Elizabeth Gross and Norah Lovell have collaborated to create the exhibition “Birding in America: An Augury.The exhibition is being shown at Staple Goods, a former corner grocery store in the St. Roch neighborhood that has been converted into a gallery for various artists to host exhibitions in. 

“Birding in America” takes inspiration from the ancient Greek and Roman practice of augury, which believed that omens could be interpreted in the behavior of birds. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the artists have gone back to this practice, and believe having to alter everyday life has given them the space to fully appreciate the art of augury. Each artist brings a unique interpretation of their observations to the exhibition, and their collaboration is a creative response to the physical barriers brought on by social distancing.

picture cards with pictures of birds on the various cards
Art courtesy of “Birding in America: An Augury.” (Elizabeth Gross)

Lee Deigaard is an artist from New Orleans and rural Georgia, and her artwork has been featured in the New Orleans Museum of Art, National Geographic’s blog “PROOF” and Oxford American. Her piece “My Year in Birds” in this exhibition focuses on the fragility of life, as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this into the forefront of her mind. She also highlights the soaring nature of birds, and how this is synonymous with the human desire for dreams and the pursuit of something greater. 

Nikita Gale is an artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California, with degrees from Yale University and UCLA. Gale’s work has been showcased in galleries throughout the world, as well as many publications, including The New York Times. Gale has created a video for the exhibition, showcasing a stunning white peacock against a stark, concrete backdrop. Gale hopes to portray the mysterious nature of the bird and the greater idea of eccentricity through her work. 

Elizabeth Gross is an author from New Orleans, and a professor in the Tulane Honors Program at Tulane. They have authored many literary works, such as “this body/that lightning show” and “Dear Escape Artist.” Gross has extensively studied the works of ancient Greece, and highlights this in their poems. They express a deeper desire of meaning and connection in their poems, all rooted in the observations of birds.

Norah Lovell is an artist from New Orleans, who has received degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of New Mexico. She also teaches humanities courses at Tulane, as well as having her art featured in prominent museums, such as the Emily Harvey Foundation and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Lovell’s piece for the exhibition focuses on the observation of birds through binoculars, and takes on a different viewpoint than her collaborators. She hopes her work will highlight the cages people live in everyday. 

The exhibition has interactive components as well, as viewers are encouraged to add their own observations about selected images into a deck of cards. The exhibition is on display from March 13 through April 4 on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also an artist talk on March 27, as well as a closing reception on April 4, all of which can be found here.