Born 1962 in Somers Point, NJ
Lives and works in Killingworth, CT
Rachel Berwick’s sculptural installations investigate ideas of vulnerability and loss in the animal world. Her past projects have explored the extinct Tasmanian Tiger; the Galápagos giant tortoise, Lonesome George; and Martha, the last passenger pigeon. Berwick employs materials such as amber, crystal, and glass to reference natural phenomena and create haunting reminders of what has been—or is nearly—lost.
Rachel Berwick, Zugunruhe, 2009, cast copal, wood, two-way mirror, moss, metal, and polyester resin, 108 x 180 in. (diameter), Courtesy of the artist © Rachel Berwick. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by John Groo
Zugunruhe simulates the wonder of a passenger pigeon flock amidst a vast forest. Despite the illusion, the sculpture is composed of a lone tree supporting hundreds of cast pigeons. As one walks around the piece, the birds appear to multiply and vanish in the mirrored surface, suggesting their historic migrations and ultimate extinction. The term zugunruhe describes the nighttime restlessness that all birds exhibit before migration. But here their movement is arrested. The passenger pigeon is frozen in time like a specimen preserved in amber. In a poignant twist, Berwick’s motionless birds can only be reanimated by our own movement around the glass.
Rachel Berwick, Blueshift, 2014, cast crystal and metal, 52 x 21 x 21 in. each, Courtesy of the artist
Blueshift is inspired by Berwick’s ongoing research into the biology and behaviors of migratory birds, particularly the indigo bunting. Berwick learned that the vivid plumage of this small bird comes not from pigmentation but the structure of the feather itself, which refracts incoming light in much the same way that scattered light makes the sky look blue. Berwick replicates this phenomenon in crystal spheres, creating two different shades of blue that symbolize day and night. On the interior of each globe, cast impressions of songbirds give the illusion of a topographical map that suggests the birds’ ability to navigate both earth and sky. The delicate forms hover like continents, connecting the terrestrial and celestial as only birds can.