In Visitation, a large flock of passenger pigeons gorge themselves in a field strewn with fruit and nuts. Ford’s scene recalls a written description by Audubon, “Whilst feeding, their avidity is at times so great that in attempting to swallow a large acorn or nut, they are seen gasping for a long while as if in the agonies of suffocation.” The birds’ ravenous feasting on the bounty of the land could symbolize the profligate exploitation of natural resources perpetuated by European settlers in the New World, which ultimately led to the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Ford also notes that the image alludes to the human tendency of blaming victims for their own destruction.
The Singing & the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art, 2014
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Walton Ford, born Larchmont, NY 1960
Blue Heron Press
color etching, aquatint, spit-bite and drypoint on paper