Last year, the Audubon Society teamed up with the Gitler & _____ Gallery on 149th and Broadway to create a public art project.
Seems like John James Audubon used to live in the Hamilton Heights area, so the society thought his old neighborhood would be the perfect canvas on which to paint portraits of birds currently facing extinction. Soon elaborate murals started showing up on the side of buildings, in bricked-over window spaces, and on the roll down security gates of various establishments up and down Broadway between 135th and 157th streets. They appeared with little fanfare, one by one, and slowly they've become familiar landmarks to the people who live here.
My personal favorite is the Tundra Swan by artist Boy Kong, which adorns the roll down security gate of what used to be a driving school, on the west side of Broadway between 149th and 150th. I've always thought this particular bird looked like a silent movie villain, with it's hypnotic eyes and fiendish grin: the kind of bird that absolutely delights in its own wickedness.
The other day, as I walked past, I noticed something new. The Tundra Swan seemed to have undergone a startling metamorphosis. No longer just slyly bad, it seems to have exploded with evil, the kind of transformation that happens in the third act of Japanese anime cartoons, when the monster goes from hulking brute to terrifying uber-demon.
In fact, it was a completely new mural, made necessary by repairs to the security gate, which hadn't been in the best shape.
I suppose this new version is more appropriate to the times we live in. This bird seems to pose a frightening, asymetrical threat, a constantly evolving nightmare that gets more alien as it grows. I'll miss the old painting, though. I prefer my villains with a touch of charm.
You can read all about the bird project--and look at photos of the work--at audubonmuralproject.org