27 July 2023


Deborah Kruger maps the
nature of disappearance


by Kate Mothes

When a bird appears well outside of its normal range, it’s often called an accidental—or a vagrant. And we know what they’re called when they disappear altogether. In elegant mixed-media compositions, artist Deborah Kruger examines ideas around native life and culture, including both wildlife and people, with a focus on transformation and irrevocable loss. She cuts thousands of feathers from recycled plastic bags which are then hand silk-screened with lettering or drawings, piecing together figments of language and imagery that reflect how the machinations of globalization are depleting indigenous populations and culture.

Kruger’s feathered pieces swirl across broad expanses and in the form of traditional garments like kimonos or robes, and installed on the wall, they drape like a display of historical artifacts. In her most recent body of work, the artist employs the outlines of nations like Japan (Kansai), Colombia (Casanare), and Cambodia (Habitat) to map areas where bird populations have been majorly disrupted. “These maps are of countries or places where habitat fragmentation has contributed to the loss of bird populations and also indigenous cultures,” she says. “Both birds and humans are at risk when their places of nesting and regions where they reside are threatened by climate change and development.”

Along with one other, Kruger’s piece Accidentals was recently added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and you can find more work on her website and Instagram.

Ropa Blanca, 2020. Screen printing on sewn and cut recycled plastic bags, 48 x 57 x 2 inches
Accidentals, 2020. Screen printing on sewn, cut, and wrapped recycled plastic bags, 92 x 167 x 6 inches
Habitat, 2018. Screen printing on recycled plastic bags, and sewing, 37 X 47 X 3 inches
Ropa Pintada, 2021. Screen printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, cutting, and wrapping, 60 x 49 x 6 inches
Devotional, 2021. Screen printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, cutting, and wrapping, 100 x 179 x 6 inches
Nest, 2018. Screen printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, black plastic zip ties, and paint, 26 x 27 x 3.5 inches
Kansai, 2018. Screen printing on sewn recycled plastic bags, 69 x 72 x 1 inches

© Deborah Kruger, courtesy of the artist

Header image: Detail of Accidentals

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