The Task
Transform a poem by a fellow student into a large-scale monumental experience.
The Solution
This poem by Jay McPherson draws on bird imagery and color symbolism to describe part of his experience being a transgender man. The sun is symbolic of freedom and being able to live freely as himself.
The poem wraps itself around a large-scale birdcage. It starts on the lower left and winds its way to the top, where it meets a blue oculus—at the right time of day, the sun would be tinted blue for someone standing inside the birdcage.
"Portrait of a Flamingo Still in Ashes" by Jay McPherson
Body caged like a mute bird, 
eyes fixed on the sun.
What reflects in the sky above,
staining the clouds with smoke and tears?
White feathers, marred with the breath of scars,
blood running like dry ink,
invisible to those without nerves.
Yet they have the nerve to call me complete,
pink from swallowing their words.
What lies below skin deep?
Blue beating in veins like rivers.
I am no body.
My spirit drowns as tensions rise.
Thin line underfoot,
spiders crawling at both ends,
apathy dripping off their teeth,
hungry for feeling.
Life caught in the web of so-called gods,
eight legs of misgiving,
eight eyes of judgment passed 
before the fire even began.
My body burns on pyres,
holes in my skin 
flame like pilot lights,
Is that the sun the bird sees?

A location with a clear view of the sky was necessary for maximum impact of the oculus.

In a place like this one, the viewer is likely already in a contemplative mood, ready to experience some poetry.

View from the top of the sculpture, including the blue oculus.

View from inside the sculpture. From the perspective of someone standing inside of it, the poem begins at the lower left and spirals it's way to the top.

Process Work

My first sketch established the shape and general scale of the sculpture, but I envisioned the poem being written on a ribbon to be threaded through the bars of the cage.

After the first sketch, I created a quick paper mockup, this time intending for the words of the poem to be a structural element of their own instead of simply written on a ribbon.

My technical drawing, providing the plans for building the mockup. The scale is 1:1 to the size I built it at, but one inch in the sketch represents one foot in the hypothetical "real life" sculpture.

My technical drawings of the top of the sculpture, and how the words of the poem itself would be cut and applied.

Process work of the mockup, using strips of paper to estimate where the text would go.

Close up of in-progress mockup; the text was laser cut from card stock and applied to the frame of the structure with glue; once it was fully dry the whole structure was spray painted white. 

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