THE MALADY AND THE SUPERPOWER
The Xenocoma Eclectibias, commonly known as the Shimmerjay, has a unique ability to combat the universally ill-effects of narrow minded or black-and-white thinking within and between human subjects. These ill-effects include excessive fighting and arguing, impulsive fear-based decisions, prejudice, discrimination, cruelty, and crimes of passion.
A non-migratory native to urban areas, the medium-sized shimmerjay typically flies among flocks of five and gravitates toward humans who are fighting, fuming, denying, or giving off otherwise close minded or belligerent vibes. The bird’s high-pitched screeching can be heard from a short distance as it approaches. The jarring effect of the screech is such that it interrupts the words and thoughts of said humans and momentarily wipes their “mental slate” clean, so to speak.
Once dazed from the screeching sound, said humans are more receptive to the hypnotic lights and colors presented by the shimmerjays as they fly in and around the humans’ line of sight. The bright red and orange feathered wings flap loudly and draw further attention to the flashy multi-colored scales and iridescent underbelly, while the light emitted from the swinging tail confuses and hypnotizes the humans into considering a multiplicity of options and truths, lessening their stubbornness and easing further tension and conflict throughout the day. This can have an immediate impact if said humans are in the middle of an argument, about to commit a crime of passion, making an important life decision based on fear of the unknown, etc.
To be clear, the shimmerjay does not impart new ideas, but rather illuminates and clarifies possibilities for understanding already within said humans, whether emotional, mental, spiritual, or directly practical, making them seem beautiful rather than frightening.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
It all started with a vague image of birds flying in between two people having an argument, and turning the tides toward peaceful compromise by making them empathize with one another. I envisioned an animal with multiple colors and a shimmering surface like a mirror, which could reflect people’s faces onto another person, enabling them to see themselves in others and therefore understand the other person’s perspective more freely. I started researching animals that shimmer like a rainbow.
I also knew that I needed to mix said animal with some kind of bird and that this bird needed to screech loudly to interrupt the people’s fighting. That is how I stumbled upon the Western Scrub Jay. Conveniently, I discovered the scrub jay was urban and non-migratory, which suited my needs perfectly.
I had chosen the Sunbeam Snake, which shimmers like a rainbow, to mix with the jay, but I still wanted the bird to have some color even when not in the sunlight, and I knew I was going to be using red and orange leaves for the wings, so I found a species of parrot with red coloring. From there I decided the bird needed to have a long tail and large wings that could flap loudly, so I decided to include those aspects from a dragon.
The process of finding materials and putting them all together was simpler than I imagined it would be. I used structural materials found in class for the frame (green straws, cardboard cylinder, tongue depressors, wire, fabric, hot wheels track, pipe, headband, lightbulb) and solicited my friends for all the shiny craft items they could give me (bottle caps, blinky rings, tin foil). I already had a box of leaves and I picked up some green pine cones off the ground as well. I knew I wanted it to be the actual size of a scrub jay, so I measured to make the wing span 15 inches. My shimmerjay is life size!
I spent most of my hours hot gluing leaves to the wings, but also spent time gluing fabric and bottle caps in place. Once I had my concept and materials, putting everything together flowed surprisingly naturally.
FORM AND MATERIALS
Each aspect of the Shimmerjay is taken from one of four different animals:
- Western Scrub Jay – Aphelocoma Californica – A medium sized bird with a loud screech.
- Sunbeam Snake – Xenopeltidae – A snake with shimmering, reflective scales.
- Parrot – Eclectus Roratus – A species of parrot with blue and red coloring in the female.
- Dragon – A fantasy creature with a sweeping tail, large wings, and long mouth.
The Shimmerjay is the size of a Scrub Jay, and makes the same screeching sound. It has the shimmering, reflective scales of the Sunbeam Snake and the red and blue coloring of the female parrot. And finally, it has the sweeping tail, large wings, and long mouth of a dragon.
For the materials, I chose a multiplicity of items which would be colorful, reflective, shimmering, or otherwise flashy. I used spiky cones to represent the screeching sound coming from the shimmerjay’s long mouth, bottle caps for the scales, aluminum foil for the underbelly, a lightbulb for the tail, and colorful maple leaves for the feathers on the wings. There are many different colors and textures represented on the creature, as befitting one whose purpose is to spread multiplicity and open-mindedness. The blinky rings on the neck and tail symbolize the effect produced by a shimmerjay flying in the sunlight; the reflective nature of the scales and underbelly would produce a flashing effect when moved quickly.
MY FAVORITE ANIMAL
The “tortoise and eagle” by Xinyao Li is my favorite animal from the class. Every aspect of it, from symbolic form, to materials, to size, are synchronized perfectly to create a smooth and moving 3D creature. Its compact size makes it unassuming; its beautiful, outstretched, layered wings make it expansive and majestic; its soft pink body makes it warm and comforting; the flower clutched in its feet makes it active and more alive. It is a truly moving and effective piece.
From this process I learned that I prefer working by myself over long periods of time. I also learned, unsurprisingly, that when I have an underlying concept and purpose for my project, it thrives more readily than when I do not! My concept shifted as I learned more about my animals and chose my forms and materials, so that the whole thing would be more in sync with itself. The critique was affirming of these conclusions and also opened my eyes to how many things can be done visually with similar materials, which was pretty cool.
Building something 3D did not feel as intimidating to me as drawing or painting a 2D image (maybe because I feel pretty confident about my gluing skills). I think this is because I trust my eyes to see what is in front of me and move things around until they look right, but I am still shaky when it comes to trusting my inner eye to see clearly what is in my head so that it can be reproduced on paper. The 3D sculpture was a nice change from what I’ve been used to. 🙂