If anyone’s ever seen the satirical “Portlandia” sketch “Put a Bird on It,” they probably laughed with Carrie Brownstein and former Saturday Night Live member Fred Armisen as the two put birds on everything in a craft store to make it more hip and sellable.
North Dakota artists Ali LaRock and Paul Noot witnessed the “hilarious” comedy and decided to make it into something more.
When LaRock and Noot, who together started the Bismarck Downtown Artist Co-op, were looking for a new theme for their traveling show, the sketch provided everything they needed.
“We both like birds and thought that could be a really fun theme with hilarious inspiration, so we decided to go for it,” said LaRock.
The show, which had been travelling across North Dakota the past year, arrived at the Memorial Union Gallery on Jan. 3 for its exhibit lasting until the closing reception on Jan. 30.
Gallery director Netha Cloeter stressed the importance of the Memorial Union having the traveling show, as it will be the only Fargo venue in which the show will be hosted.
“We are trying to figure out how NDSU can integrate itself in conversations and things that are happening in the community and North Dakota through art and history,” said Cloeter. “Offering this opportunity to our students is a great way to do that.”
According to Cloeter, “Put a Bird on It” is loosely centered on the birds with both artists taking a different approach to that theme.
“Ali’s works are serious and poetic, while Paul’s works touch political, economic or agricultural issues, but both artists use birds as an entry point to their art,” said Cloeter.
“Both Paul and I see birds as symbols of communication and the different struggles and interactions people have with others everyday,” said LaRock. “We want people to look at the bird and relate it to human condition.”
LaRock expounded further on her themes saying the combination of humor and playfulness of the birds paired with the intense issues seen in the works is a natural response to the way one can see the world – a place filled with so many wonder feelings and possibilities, yet a very frustrating place full of all sorts of struggles.
Noot had a different take on his works, as he focused on the human spirit and nature to be the central subjects of his work.
“I use segments of nature, ornamental architecture and the human body to evoke an instinctive response that leads to an emotional reaction,” said Noot. “My work is about creating a dialogue between myself, the artwork and the viewer.”
Even with the separate meanings for their art, it is clearly evident that the birds are the visual epicenter of the exhibit.
Cloeter illustrated the impact and centricity of the birds, as she described, “By using a bird as a vehicle to portray a visual poem of suffering or loss, it can take it to a whole different metaphoric level, so we are seeing birds as a carrier of human emotion.”
On a more practical side, Cloeter pointed out the timing of exhibit during the frigid January month.
“We wanted to put this show up at this time because it’s a little spring-like,” said Cloeter. “Birds have not come back literally, but metaphorically in the Gallery.”
As with any of the Memorial Union Gallery’s exhibits, cost of admission is completely free. As with every show, the Gallery will host there a reception for people to gather and discuss the themes and ideas and celebrate the show.
Both LaRock and Noot will be present during the “Put a Bird on It” public reception and artist talk on Jan. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. to answer any questions, talk about their works in the exhibit and art as a whole.
“Since they are living artists, we get to ask questions about their work,” said Cloeter. “We can read the work our own way, but it is interesting to see what the artist has to say about it, too.”
Time: 5 to 7 p.m.
Date: Thurs, Jan. 30
Price: Free and open to the public
Place: NDSU Memorial Union Gallery