Dryden-based artist Michele Coslett Goodman has a talent for transforming everyday materials into works of art. In An Unkindess of Ravens, discarded inner tubing from tires have been skillfully cut, sewn and wrapped to be transformed into sculptures of an unkindness (the collective noun for ravens) of ravens. In this sculpture, two ravens are perched on a tree branch whereas one is suspended from the ceiling and the other eight remaining birds are assembled on the ground. Altogether, we have a scene where a group of birds appear to be in a deep conversation. No doubt, such feathery gatherings are familiar to residents of Northwestern Ontario.
During the making of this sculpture, Coslett Goodman would often drive around Dryden to observe ravens, noting how they would communicate amongst each other and admiring the overall hardiness and astute nature of these birds that live in the North throughout the year. Coslett Goodman also cites American writer Edgar Allan Poe as a source of inspiration for this work, particularly his poem The Raven (1845) which accounts the eerie nighttime interaction between a raven and a heartbroken man who is slowly descending into grief and doubt.
Ravens have long held symbolic meaning for a number of cultures across the globe, which undeniably adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of this work. An Unkindness of Ravens represents the growing number of works by regional artists in the Gallery’s Permanent Collection and was purchased from the artist in 2010 with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program.
Originally published in The Walleye – NOV 2017
By Nadia Kurd, Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery