The overarching title for the series of framed charcoal drawings comes from Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, Speak, Memory, and relates to my desire to understand the complexity and nature of ravens and crows, birds possessing the capacity to recall and mimic human language. I’ve had various encounters with talking corvids — a Connecticut raven named Julian, the blue jay Baby Blue, and a rascally, cursing green-eyed British jackdaw — and found, surprisingly, that their ability to speak makes these birds even more inscrutable. The language may speak less of them than it does of us, and our desire to comprehend them in human terms.

These portraits are scaled with the intention of creating a meeting of minds or reciprocity: in as much as we are contemplating these brainy birds, they seem to be equally contemplating us. The stark, high contrast and large scale also demands our attention and consideration (as birds in the corvid family—crows, blue jays, rooks, magpies, jackdaws, ravens, etc.—so often do), while the emphasis on individuality and personality with each portrait challenges the generalities we may have regarding what a raven is. 

With some of these drawings—Crow Magnus, Tempus Fugit and Talk Tok—letterforms and words fall like rain, jump like fleas and hover like vultures, suggesting a pervasive presence of human language. Like the jabbering Cro-Magnon perched pet-like on the shoulder of the raven in Crow Magnus, the notion of nature in this work is entirely unnatural.