Two massive cardinals and a luxurious peacock are now perched among the blooming landscape of Gainesville’s Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The artists behind the operation, Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein, crafted the avians out of mostly strips of bamboo and a range of familiar recyclable materials. On March 27, the outdoor exhibition named “Wings of Wonder: Towering Works of Nature,” was revealed to the public. Like migratory birds, the art installation will leave its temporary home on Oct. 31, 2021.
Mildred Fockele, director of the Gainesville garden, said Dodson and Moerlein, who are based out of Massachusetts, work collaboratively as the “Myth Makers.” She noted that the artists have presented more than 20 public works throughout the world, including Taiwan, New York and Alaska. Taking inspiration from birds, Fockele said the artists not only offer a narrative with the birds they display, but deliberately choose avian site-specific avian species.
“They’re fascinated with birds and talk about the various stories connected with birds throughout time,” she said.
Dodson and Moerlein explained that birds have become a common theme with their collaborative work because the feathery creatures resonate with people from all over the world.
“I feel like they naturally capture attention and imagination,” Dodson said. “Almost everyone has a bird story. They’re either afraid of birds or bird watchers, or they have a nickname or story about someone who loves birds.”
Cardinals are year-round residents of Georgia and are known to mate for life. Dodson and Moerlein named the 15-foot-tall male and female cardinal sculptures “Love Long Last,” to symbolize this bond among the species. The cardinal structures may have a wide space between them, but their eyes are locked in a firm gaze.
“We find them romantic and delightful when you look at their history, myths and stories,” Moerlein said.
The two named the garden’s peacock sculpture, “Flannery the Peacock,” after Flannery O'Connor, the famous Georgian novelist who cared for dozens of peacocks on her farm in Milledgeville.
The peacock structure reaches 21 feet in height, and its tail offers a shelter for both children and adults to walk under.
“Wings of Wonder: Towering Works of Nature”
What: Outdoor installation of three giant bird sculptures
When: Open to public until Oct. 31, 2021
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville, 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville
Cost of visit: $10 for adults; $8 for kids ages 3-12; free for garden members and children under 3
More info/tickets: atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden
Dodson said the tail of the bird also reflects a bit of O’Connor’s past, incorporating elements of architecture found in a traditional Catholic church. The famous novelist was known as a devout Catholic throughout her adult life. The tail’s plumage contains decorative translucent panels, meant to capture a sense of stained glass. Dodson noted that the arches of the tail are aimed to mimic those of a Catholic church.
The two artists used strips of plastic and duct tape to bring color to the structures and even attached pinwheels to the birds’ heads, adding a whimsical effect. Dodson said that they make a point to leave a small carbon footprint with their work and use material easily accessible to anyone.
The sculptures were assembled by Dodson and Moerlein with the help of Brenau University art students on March 22 and March 23. Fockele noted that the peacock tail was constructed on-site.
“It was interesting to watch the tail go up in one day,” she said. “They had this vision on paper, and they had to make little adjustments in the field, like a garden. It was fascinating to watch the process and them interacting with Brenau students.”
Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville, located at 1911 Sweetbay Drive, is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Guests are required to purchase timed tickets online before their visit. Mask wearing is required for those who enter a building. However, Fockele said people can remove their face coverings when they’re outside. All visitors are asked to practice social distancing.
For more information about the garden, visit atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden.