Profundity and plastic toys

My oh my what a wonderful dayPlenty of sunshine headed my wayZip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-AMister blue bird’s on my shoulder…

Like the catchy song from the old Disney film Song of the South, “Blue Bird on my Shoulder” is the name of the new art exhibition showing at the William and Nancy Oliver Art Gallery. However, this song was not exactly what inspired artist April S. Childers to create the installation. She said that what inspired her (in part) was the movie itself.

“It was definitely a starting point … the way the film was developed visually and its narrative structure was appealing to me,” said Childers.

Her exhibition is comprised of three art pieces. The biggest and most notorious can be seen at the center of the art gallery as people walk in. It is a conjunction of five birdcages hanging from the ceiling, each covered by a blue blanket. Desperate noises and movements come from one of the cages as if a little bird inside is urgently trying to get out.

Another piece features naked bird bodies attached to cinderblocks by wire. Childers said it represents


“Like a dog tied and chained, it’s helpless and dependent on someone, if anyone is even there to see the dog or even care,” she said.

According to Childers, non-happiness, frustration, instability, growth, memory, effort, balance and struggle were also inspirational reasons for her creations.

“I’m trying to find out what happiness really is by questioning and relating to every aspect of it,” she said.

She said people’s desire for happiness might actually come from a dark place. Childers, who is a graduate student as well as a fine arts teacher at USF, thinks that people have to understand and experience the bad so they can develop the good or the happy.

“That is what helps us relay information or the happy. “That is what helps us relay and connect with one another and many of our memories,” she said. “I believe this is where the cartoon aesthetic and instances of play comes from and is shown within the work.”

Her artwork is made out of paper-mâché, plaster, plastic, found objects, paint and other materials. Childers said most of the work was done during the summer. She describes her work as having traditional craft references.

“I like using man-made materials too, like chains,” she said. “It’s a lot of mixed media.”

In these works the blue birds are conceptually in a battle, Childers said.

“They fight for individual balance and stability,” said Childers. “Some are overcome with an unforeseen force while others seem to be simply in the right place at the right time.”

To Childers blue birds allude to something that should be captured or desired.

“In older cartoons, the human is usually seen coaxing the birds near,” she said.

Ultimately, this exhibit questions people’s pursuit of happiness.

“Should anyone ever believe that happiness will come their way?” Childers said. “Are we guilty or selfish if we do? ?Are we really deserving?”

Childers added, “Posing?lots of questions and working through the answers is where I am.”

Despite this introspective journey, she recognizes that there may not be real answers to those questions.

“Happiness is a continuous study and an ongoing battle,” she said.