July 22, 2019

Phoenix artist Koryn Woodward Wasson created a whole new world inside a little slice of Scottsdale.

It’s an installation called “Bird Cloud Island,” where birds defy conventional wisdom and beckon people to join them. It runs through Thursday, August 31, at The Gallery at Scottsdale Civic Center Library.ADVERTISING

Basically, “Bird Cloud Island” is a Midcentury Modern hotel. The installation was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art, and it’s the second time that Wasson has created work for this space.

Back in 2014, Wasson and her husband, fellow artist Roy Wasson Valle, created a fictional campsite called “Camp Dreamtree” for Scottsdale Public Art.

Wasson’s Midcentury Modern bird hotel is a fitting scene for a city where winter visitors of the human variety, often dubbed “snowbirds” by the locals, make hotels an important economic driver.

But it’s also something more.

The immersive exhibition is an homage to imagination and wonder, created in an age filled with cynicism and despair.

Despite modern advances in science and technology, it’s still grappling with violence, starvation, and disease. Ugly politics dominate the American landscape, driving some to embrace dystopian tales for a weird mix of prophecy and escapism.

“Bird Cloud Island” is escapism, par excellence.

Walking into the gallery space at Scottsdale Civic Center Library is like entering a whole new world. It’s filled with bright colors reminiscent of fresh blueberry pie, orange Creamsicles, and crisp white linens hung outdoors to dry.

Most importantly, it’s filled with clouds.

The clouds have a charming backstory, rooted in Wasson’s curiosity about whether birds could sit on clouds. It turns out that the physics don’t quite work there, so birds only sit on clouds in Wasson’s imagination.

Birds she calls “cloudsitters” are an important part of Wasson’s current art practice. Last fall, they were featured in the exhibition space at MADE Art Boutique in Roosevelt Row.

Each of Wasson’s birds has its own unique personality and charm.

But despite their lighthearted look, Wasson’s birds prompt reflection on some serious issues on a local and global scale.

Even as Wasson was installing “Bird Cloud Island,” the City of Scottsdale was holding community meetings to gather feedback about possible plans for creating the next iteration for the city, which sometimes seems to struggle with finding its own identity.

For citizens and city planners, “Bird Cloud Island” is a tangible reminder that it’s good to think outside the box. Wasson didn’t let the reasons birds can’t sit on clouds keep her from considering how the world might be different if they did.

Part of Koryn Woodward Wasson's exhibition at MADE Art Boutique in November 2016.

EXPANDPart of Koryn Woodward Wasson’s exhibition at MADE Art Boutique in November 2016.Koryn Woodward Wasson/Photo by Lynn Trimble

Wasson’s birds also prompt reflection on the ways migration has always been part of the shifting nature of human and animal landscapes.

But “Bird Cloud Island” also inspires a particular way of thinking about the world – with slow, careful observation that allows time to notice small details and important interconnections.

See “Bird Cloud Island” so you can escape the rest of the world for a while. But don’t be surprised if it leaves you inspired to head right back into the fray, but with a fresh perspective and renewed energy for creating a world where birds sitting on clouds isn’t an impossible dream.

The free opening reception for “Bird Cloud Island” takes place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 11, at The Gallery at Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Get details on the Scottsdale Public Art website

Article by Phoenix New Times