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Sawtooth School for Visual Art

Sawtooth School for Visual Art presents sculpture exhibition “Birds, Bats and Bones” by Bryant Holsenbeck and Nicole Uzzell

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“Birds, Bats and Bones,” a two-person exhibition by Bryant Holsenbeck and Nicole Uzzell, will be on view through Oct. 25 in the Davis Gallery at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem.

Presented by Sawtooth School for Visual Art, this sculpture exhibit aims to bring attention to the shrinking avian populations around the world.

The exhibition has more than 30 pieces, featuring representational works — birds and bats — by Holsenbeck and abstract paper sculptures — bird and bat bones — by Uzzell. It includes sculptures previously made by the artists as well as those made specifically for “Birds, Bats and Bones.”

Uzzell, the curator for the exhibition, said that birds are recognized as one of the most important indicators on the state of the environment and that the success of ecosystems can be measured by the health of the birds in the area.

“The most obvious parts of the bird that contribute to flight are the wings, but it’s the wishbone that provides the stability to fly,” Uzzell said. “Only avian species have a wishbone, and without it the wings could not function properly. Therefore, the wishbone has become a symbol of freedom, flight and good fortune.”

She added that winged creatures have different wishbones, depending on factors such as the size of their wings.

Uzzell and Holsenbeck’s contemporary approach to paper sculpture and their commitment to environmental concerns brought them together.

“Because of their shared admiration for innovative paper techniques, three-dimensional forms, and positive/negative space, the exhibit contains only free-standing, three-dimensional work,” Sawtooth said in a press release. “Their pedestal, floor-to-ceiling, large/small-scale, and mobile style works stretch the boundaries of representational and abstract sculptures made of paper.”

Both artists use abaca and flax pulp infused with natural and man-made materials as their sculptural agents.

Uzzell, a paper sculptor in Winston-Salem, uses repurposed materials from industry and makes hand-pulled paper sheets for the outer layers of her bat and bird bone sculptures.

“The elegantly designed wishbone provides not only flight for birds but also a sense of hope during signs of decline for some people,” Sawtooth said. “The bat bone contains that same elegance and brings to mind the urgency of protecting their environment.”

Holsenbeck, based in Durham, has been an environmental artist for more than 30 years and is known internationally. Using stuff that people no longer need, her work includes mixed media sculpture and installations.

For “Birds, Bats and Bones,” Holsenbeck creates her bird and bat sculptures from “discarded stuff” and gives them life-like characteristics.

“Through natural and man-made materials, her birds and bats make powerful statements about their shrinking habitat and the impact of our single-use throwaway culture,” Sawtooth said.

Holsenbeck spoke of the importance of wildlife.

“Because of climate (change) and so much growth, the wild animals are really vulnerable,” Holsenbeck said. “I feel fortunate that we still have wild animals in our world, that they are still surviving.”

She is thankful that there are still wild spaces in the world.

“I hope that people don’t fill up all the wild spaces with people because we really need to survive with these other creatures that are not humans,” she said. “Everything makes up the world.”

Uzzell said birds are important for various reasons.

“They are the ones that move the seeds around,” she said. “They are the pollinators. They take away the insects. They are so important to our own happiness.”

She added that a lot of people got into birdwatching when they were in quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.

“They’re really enjoying the birds,” she said.

Uzzell made a couple of suggestions for people when they are considering landscaping changes.

“Maybe, don’t take that tree down because the birds enjoy that tree,” she said. “Think about how we have to live in tandem and how much they enhance our lives. If we keep taking away their territory, then we’re not going to have (them).”

Uzzell said that bats are also losing their habitats.

“A lot of people love birds, but we should also love our bats,” Uzzell said. “I know they are creepier, but they eat so many mosquitos and things.”

She hopes people will enjoy the sculptures in “Birds, Bats and Bones.”

“We just wanted to draw attention to our flying friends and really how fragile they are,” Uzzell said. “That’s really why we wanted to work in paper, because paper is fragile.”

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“We just wanted to draw attention to our flying friends and really how fragile they are. That’s really why we wanted to work in paper, because paper is fragile.”

— Nicole Uzzell, curator of “Birds, Bats and Bones” and a paper sculptor in Winston-Salem

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