Splashy, jewel-toned acrylic paints give Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture, You Are My Bird, a whimsical and showy presence. Using a broad color palette, she covers the work in patterned sections of punchy, complementary colors. These contrasting but harmonious tones, combined with the imperfect texture of the work’s glossy surface and the visible pencil marks, give the sculpture a distinctly tactile quality. Its curvaceous forms add to this sense of physicality, as its undulations invite the viewer to engage with both positive and negative space. While You Are My Bird has a strong physical and sculptural presence, the impetus for the work stems from ”the bird in her mind”: like many Surrealists, Saint Phalle’s subconscious plays a more influential role in the creation of the artwork than her immediate perception of reality. In creating this abstracted and dramatized birdlike form, she employs natural yet primitive patterns and themes that recur in her art as she continually interacts with a fantastical bird on a cerebral, even spiritual level.
This sculpture is one of 41 European and American drawings, paintings, and sculptures collected and donated or bequeathed to the Mead by alumnus Richard S. Zeisler. Zeisler began collecting in 1948, although the origins of his interest lay in books he read while a student at Amherst. The sculptures in the Zeisler collection, representing diverse styles and materials, all stimulate the senses and invite inquiry into ambiguous forms and sign systems.
While Saint Phalle's You Are My Bird has a strong physical presence, the impetus for the work stems from "the bird in her mind;" like the Surrealists, Saint-Phalle's subconscious plays a much more influential role than her immediate perception of reality. In creating this abstracted and dramatized bird-like form, she employs primitive patterns and themes that recur in her art as she continually interacts with a fantastical bird on a cerebral, even spiritual level.