Monday, June 24, 2013

Ubiquitous Chickens

In recent days, chickens seem to be everywhere.

On Monday last, the day before the Common Council passed the chicken law (by the skin of its teeth--if a chicken had teeth), Pat Bradley did a report on WAMC in which she interviewed the author of a manual for building designer chicken coops and surveyed the status of backyard chicken raising in the Capital District. 

On Saturday, the day after the mayor vetoed the chicken law, WAMC rebroadcast the report (without updating it to include any mention of the fate of Hudson's chicken law), and then an hour or so later, on A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor, in his "News from Lake Wobegon," told about failed legislation in his hometown to limit the number of backyard chickens to four and require them to be confined in a fenced area. The proposed law, so the story went, was meant to address specifically the problem of the Magendanzes chickens, a wild bunch that were running amok in Lake Wobegon, but people who didn't raise chickens and never had came out in force to protest the law they believed infringed on their rights and the rights of chickens.

This coming Friday, the mayor holds a public hearing to find out what the people of Hudson think about the law he has already vetoed, and on that same day, a new exhibition opens at Davis Orton Gallery featuring portraits of chickens. So even if you may not yet--or ever--raise chickens in your own backyard, you can admire their beauty.

Of course, the chickens that are the subjects of Tamara Staples' portraits, which she styles "using light and backgrounds of lush fabrics and papers to elevate her subjects in the same way Dutch painters used such materials to denote wealth and prestige in society," are not raised for anything so mundane as egg production. They are "show chickens," bred to be themselves works of art. 

Staples has published two books of portraits of these pampered poulesThe Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens (2001) and The Magnificent Chicken (2013). Both books are published by Chronicle Books, and both are available at Davis Orton Gallery.

The exhibition, which also includes ink on paper drawings by Rebecca Doughty, runs through July 28. The opening reception is Saturday, June 29, from 6 to 8 p.m.

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