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Dry Dock Pelican with Attitude

24"h x 28"L x 12"w; 2020
Photo by Melisa Kroening

Birds get our attention. They are naturals that way. That being the case, among birds, a pelican really gets our attention! I can’t look away, as my car careens back and forth between the rumble strips on I-84 as it courses along the Columbia, when the pelicans are out and about! It is a very good thing that the traffic in those parts is scarce. 


I love pelicans, and I don’t even know a single one. But I have wax, and everyone who’s been to a wax museum knows you can make a famous person out of wax. So, certainly one can make a pelican. My pelican is part of a bird series I’m doing. I call it “Dry Dock” because it looks like it needs a great deal of repair to be either seaworthy or capable of flight. But I think the essence of the pelican has neither to do with flight nor floating. They are absolutely marvelous in flight, they bob like a cork, and they dive like a submarine, but just standing on a pier post, they command the scene like a judge commands the big chair in a court proceeding. With authority!


Dry Dock is one of two birds I’ve been working on that borrow their hull form from the mariners trade. Inspired in part by fishing vessels of days gone by, or the little dinghies that languish in backwater bays. The bird form is the foundation of the boat form. 


Like my other recent bird, I wanted to meld mechanical concepts with biological form, giving homage to human efforts at approximating the talents of “bird”. Like a real pelican, I think my pelican is a quiet piece, silent in its attitude, patient in its demeanor, and regal even in its dilapidated condition. 


Of course, the pouch, or gular of the pelican is both comical and wonderfully gifted as an adaptation! My Grandfather was a bit of a closet poet, or at least a reciter of poetry, and one of his go-to (repeatable) poems went like this: 


A big white bird is a pelican

His beak holds more food than his belly can

Enough in his beak to last for a week

And I don’t see how in the hell he can


Perhaps not the most serious literary piece ever written, 

But as a kid I was smitten,

And by the poetry bug I was bitten.

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