Dead Bird Art Branded Sick

A dead bird in a cage- judged best in its class a Bridport open arts competition - was this week branded "sick" by a previous show winner.

The entry, simply entitled "Bird", incorporates the head, wings and claws of a dead seagull and won the sculpture and installation class at the exhibition, now underway at Bridport Arts Centre.

It is the work of professional artist Michael Chappell, of Bridport, who spent three years planning his creation -designed to highlight animal cruelty.

But feathers are flying after local sculptor and retired art teacher Len Wilshaw slammed the exhibit as tasteless.

He to The News it was on a par with controversial artist Damien Hirst's dead cow exhibit which won the Turner Prize.

"HEre we have a dead bird in a cage and they call it sculpture," he told The News. "What kind of sick society are we living in? A dead bird in a cage wins a sculpture prize in preference to fine wood and stone sculptures."

Mr Wilshaw who won the same category with one of his wood sculptures some three years ago, said he had refused to enter the competition this time after last year's contest was won by a doll's bed.

"I was so disgusted at that I have refused to put work in," he said.

But Mr Chappell said there was nothing sick about his exhibit and claimed Mr Wilshaw clearly didn't understand modern art. It was not meant to represent a craft or skill but to ask a question.

"That's what my piece is about," he said.

Mr Chappell said he had been thinking about this particular exhibit for some three years and had found the dead bird on the beach.

"A lot of thought and care has gone into this - if you look in the comments book you will see people have written remarks like ' thank you for making us think'," he said.

"Mr Wilshaw is upset about me putting a dead bird in a cage - I am upset about people putting live birds in a cage - he has made my point for me beautifully."

Mr Chappell added that he was "flattered" to be mentioned in the same breath as Damien Hirst.

Frances Everett administrator at the Bridport Arts Centre also defended the exhibit. They were a democratic organisation open to all forms of art, she stressed.

"If we thought that the bird had been unnecessarily killed for the piece would have been horrified and would not have accepted it," she said.

"But the artist did not do anything to the bird, - he found it dead already."

She said the piece was about life and death and how we use animals - how we should not keep birds in cages.

The exhibition runs until September 15.

Western Gazette: 31st Jul 2001 13:37:00


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