Before embarking on a career in the arts, Laurel Roth Hope worked as both a park ranger and a natural-resource conservator. Her time spent protecting and restoring habitats inspired a body of work that examines the adaptive abilities of some species versus others. In Biodiversity Reclamation Suits for Urban Pigeons, the artist crochets “sweaters” that mimic the plumage of extinct or endangered bird species. Despite their humor and charm, these works force us to confront the futility of recovering lost biodiversity. Roth Hope displays each suit on a hand-carved pigeon mannequin as a reminder that the animals we most revile are often the ones capable of surviving in a human-made environment.
The Singing & the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art, 2014
Hope uses humor to address the serious subject of species extinction in her Biodiversity Reclamation Suits. These suits allow common rock pigeons to masquerade as extinct North American birds -- if not actually to "reclaim" biodiversity, then at least to give the appearance of it. One can't help but smile, imagining these birds clad in their bright, borrowed feathers roaming our city streets, even as we note that the damage we do to our environment cannot always be undone.
Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery, 2019
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser