A Bird in The Hand - A Tribute to Johnny Cash

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This work reflects the emotions and images that I associate with particular pieces of Country music. For me, Johnny Cash is a potent symbol of America. This piece is intended as a tribute to the confrontational power of his recordings.

Mr. Cash has been an important part of my musical heritage in his capacity as both a performer and songwriter. His recent Death has echoed the loss of so many civilians and soldiers in recent conflicts across the world stage. The evolution of his career through a variety of styles is a constant source of stimulation for me. His last album ‘Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around 2002’

explored themes of salvation, guilt and human frailty.  In particular his interpretation of  ‘I hung my head’ (Sting), delves into the repercussions of the use of firearms. The sheer peculiarity of the phrase ‘friendly fire’ is an issue that I have felt compelled to explore in visual terms.

The title, ‘A bird in the Hand – a Tribute to Johnny Cash’,  refers to the children’s saying that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, a treatise on valuing the present, and an obvious pun on the American president. This struck me as resonant with recent troubles across theglobe. The ‘present’ is tragically something that is the only conceivable future for so many people.

Red White and Blue are colours associated with both the American flag and also the British Union Jack. This seemed an apt palette as a vehicle to explore the joint involvement in The Iraq war by these two nations.  The Glove as an expression of identity, uniformity and disguise has been an obsession in my work. They can protect the good by keeping the wearer from harm, but they can also be used by the bad. A symbol of guilt throughout many cultures is the red hand. It has a different political symbolism in Ulster and a common association of literally being ‘caught red handed’, or in the act of perpetrating a crime. I enjoy the duality of images that can be read in several ways.

I wanted to elevate the everyday, utilitarian, mass produced items and give them an individualism that defied the elitism of a hierarchy of cloth. Why is cotton less precious than silk? Is work only of value if its component materials are of intrinsic value?

In the making of the work the gloves have become ‘Body bags’, sewn together, sewn down and thus rendered useless and incapable of serving their designed function. The images stitched onto them are derived from sketches made on location throughout Europe from Natural History Museums. Dead birds displayed in a fake natural pose. Remnants from countless ‘shooting parties’.
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