With boxes of field notes spread across my studio floor and fourteen paintings of the work (or play) of the Vogelkop Bower Birds, I wonder why I was driven or “fascinated” by feathers. Why collect, arrange, wear, paint feathers? I just read Cynthia Gardner’s “A British Invasion of Fascinators” And last month I bought a book “Plumes from Paradise” by Pamela Swadling and read of Plume trade in the (Vogelkop) Birds Head, West New Guinea. A great invasion of plume hunters in Bower Bird territory. Were the Bower Birds the first to use fascinators? My brilliant friend Jimmy loves them because they remind him of flying, having wings, escaping earthly bonds. Checking the dictionary I read: Fascinator. 1. One who or that which fascinates. 2. A scarf of crochet work, lace or the like, narrowing toward the ends, worn as a head covering by women.
I still wonder.
As I work on the 2010 painting of “Leonardo’s” bower a certain sadness settles over my old enthusiasm. I see no “fascinators” in the display. Are the molted feathers no longer available? Have the Sickle Bill Bird of Paradise, King Parrot and Harpy Eagle left Hungku for a safer forest or have they been destroyed by road workers and hunters? I’m afraid a bit of my fascination has fled. No questions will be asked as I’ve promised guide Yoris I will speak only of the Bower Bird while on this trip in the Arfak Mountains. No questions especially about money, water, missionaries or politics. He won’t talk either.