The Language of Watching at Arts on Douglas Gallery, New Smyrna Beach, FL / by Rachel Simmons

I just finished installing “The Language of Watching” in New Smyrna Beach at the Arts on Douglas Gallery. As an extension of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, this gallery primarily features work by Florida artists. This is the first solo show of this entire body of work which began in 2015 at an artist’s residency in Lincoln, Nebraska. Printmaker Karen Kunc invited me to spend some time at Constellation Studios and meet with local birders to investigate the rich culture of birdwatching. Since then, I have been researching historical field guides and examining the culturally specific language used to describe bird behavior in my individual and collaborative projects. This show brings projects FLOCK (2015-) and Bird Song Broadsides (2018) together for the first time with artist’s books How to Speak to Birds (2018), A Survey of Birds & Their Behaviors (2015) and Conceited Rural Dandies (2016). The later was produced during the Paper Fox Printmaking Workshop with Benjamin Rinehart’s students. As an artist. it is really important to be able to see my various projects together in one place to better understand them as a body of work and how they communicate with viewers. This current version of FLOCK, a socially engaged project, displays patterned bird silhouette prints made by three groups of community collaborators from Constellation Studios in Lincoln, NE, Rollins College in Winter Park, FL and students at the University of Tampa,. The project is a discussion of the local birds we encounter everyday in our environment, and how we can think of these ubiquitous encounters as a way to connect with nature more broadly. Participants are then invited to use creative experimentation to print bird silhouettes as a way to deepen their appreciation of birds. As a result, the prints themselves are an artifact of this interactive process, and not the only outcome. FLOCK will be part of this summer’s August programming during a residency at Central Print in St. Louis, MO.

I’ll be speaking about FLOCK, Bird Song Broadsides (which were printed at Penland School of Craft last year) as well as a selection of artist’s books from 2015-2018 during an artist’s talk at the gallery on May 17th at 11 am.