Above All Else

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~Chinese Proverb

Above All else
encaustic mixed media
6×6 inches

Above all else, guard your heart;
for it is the wellspring of life…
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
-Proverbs 4:23-26

When I was working on this little painting, I was thinking about safety, staying diligent, being guarded. Protection. It was after the horrific tragedy of the Newtown shootings and I think everyone was feeling so vulnerable. When I went searching online for quotes or writings on those topics just to jumpstart my brain for a title, this verse from Proverbs popped up and it resonated with me. Pretty good advice coming from ages ago.

I use birds often in my work and I had written a post recently how I was going to stop because of the popularity, but I came to my senses with the help of the comments left on that blog post. We all come to our symbols from different places, from our different histories. What a bird means to me and why I use it in my work is totally different from what a bird means to someone else and why they use it in their work. Birds, for me, are messengers. The go-between of the earthly world and the spirit world. Crows have an even more significant meaning in my work- often I am drawing upon visions or dreams. In my daily life, I feel that I do get messages from birds…or if one is skeptical, then I just read messages into their visitations. Either case, there is a message for me, I feel.

There is a reason that birds have been appearing in artwork, not just now, but for ages. They are our constant companions. Flitting here and there in the periphery of our lives. They appear in our origin stories and legends across cultures. Humans respond to them, always have. It’s nothing new.

Speaking of birds….I wanted to share this video documentary of Ann Carter, wonderful woman I met who is an artist from Kansas. I met her last summer when I taught at EncaustiCamp in Oregon. We both share a love for birds and she created the most exquisite little panel for the books we were making in my workshop that had little robins on it.

Ann and I have kept in touch since Encausticamp and I learned that her panel she made birthed a series about birds and nests, which were an exploration into her becoming a mother of her adopted daughters. Her series was exhibited at a gallery in her town, and I think it might still be up, I’m not sure about that though! But if you have a minute, please watch her documentary. It is really wonderful.

Of her bird series, Ann says, “I’m not sure how the bird series fits in, but I have realized lately how I need my art to bring empathy to others. Perhaps the sweetness of birds or the messages they bring to us about survival and hope and endurance in the face of their daily struggles do have the power to give us empathy to other living creatures on this earth.”

hmmm, I like that.


  1. Beautiful post Bridgette! I have always loved your birds! They aren’t just messengers – they are your messengers – helping you to tell your stories.

    And the video – wow. I am the mom of an adopted son. I was in the labor room when he was born. He came to us when I was forty. He has been such a joy. What a wonderful story your friend has shared.

    thank you both!

  2. Thanks Judy! That’s an interesting perspective on them being My Messengers- thanks for that. You all really help me put the pieces together. Thank you.
    So glad you watched the video and that you could relate. Thanks for sharing yours.

  3. Wonderful post, Bridgette! I love your birds and I see birds as messengers in my life too. The video is so moving. what an inspiring story. Thank you!

  4. Beautiful, Bridgette! I’m actually finding birds trying to sneak into my work lately. Very interesting situation for a non-representational abstract artist to process. This encourages me to maybe let them speak.

  5. This video was really illuminating, Bridgette. I loved her line about the act of adopting her kids as “bungee jumping.” What a huge leap of courage that must have taken.

    And the birds. I’ve always loved them in your work along with your bowls. They always remind me of Buddhist begging bowls.

    1. I just loved the video of Ann and just had to share it. Inspiring.

      Thanks- bird, trees, and bowls. Those are my trilogy. A friend of mine said the same to me about the Buddhist begging bowls when I first started painting them. I had heard of them, but was not too familiar with them at the time. Then I read more about it in Sue Bender’s book. Rich metaphor to work with.

  6. my sweet Mom
    loved and collected birds
    she passed
    6 hours after I landed in Omaha
    this last Thanksgiving day
    she now comes to me
    with the birds

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