Black-billed Cuckoo

  • Barbara Bosworth, Black-billed Cuckoo, 2005, chromogenic print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Haluk and Elisa Soykan, 2008.2.19, © 2005, Barbara Bosworth

As of 2008, Bosworth was working with researchers in Ohio and Massachusetts who capture and release songbirds during the spring migration. As with her champion tree photographs, these images seem at first to be concerned with classifying the natural world in systematic detail. Yet they are also part of an encompassing portrait of a complex and interconnected universe filled with wonder and metaphor. Birds have been long recognized as both literal and figurative messengers. Their regular migrations mark the change in seasons, with bluebirds foretelling the arrival of spring and long vees of geese the coming winter. And they are also swift couriers, arcing across the open sky to carry forward our desires. Bosworth discovered gestures in Renaissance paintings by Fra Angelico and Lorenzo Veneziano that resembled her own images: I was amazed by a painting of a saint with his arms extended, releasing a bird towards heaven. It reminded me of the motion made when these captive birds are set free.” In her photographs, we sense the quick pulse and energy of these delicate creatures, poised to take flight the instant they are released.

Earth and Sky: Photographs by Barbara Bosworth exhibition label

Black-billed Cuckoo
Not on view
18 1423 14 in. (46.459.1 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Haluk and Elisa Soykan

Mediums Description
chromogenic print
  • Animal – bird – cuckoo
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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