James Prosek, What once was is no more: Passing like a thought, flight into memory, 2014, hand painted acrylic and vinyl on Sheetrock, 168 x 496 in., Courtesy of the artist and Schwartz-Wajahat, New York, Image courtesy of the artist and Schwartz-Wajahat, New York
James Prosek’s panoramic mural depicts of flock of migrating passenger pigeons winging through a copse of American chestnut trees. At one time, both bird and tree filled the vast primeval forests of the eastern United States. Their dark silhouettes are inspired by the endpapers of Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds (1934), in which bird shapes are paired with a numerical key to simulate the way readers identify species in the field. In Prosek’s painting, however, there is no corresponding key. The process of identification and naming, a central pursuit of birding, is thwarted. Prosek’s mural encourages visitors to find pleasure in the simple act of looking.