Ligia Bouton and Matt Donovan


Artist Statement

Duck, Swan, Goose: New Decoys, New Forms is a multifaceted installation that takes its cue from the work of John James Audubon as well as America’s dependence on plastics. Viewers can find three “flocks” of floating sculpture that have been generated from a fictional premise centered on birds biologically adapting to our polluted waterways. By combining hunting decoys with found objects, these forms suggest the bodily mutations of species that have resulted from plastic detritus found in the river. In this harrowing vision of the future, the American Swan has had its feathers replaced with plastic utensils, the Wood Duck travels in groups permanently conjoined by six-pack rings, and the Canada Goose has adapted to a life ensnared with twine and bottle caps. 

The project’s other primary component consists of three information signs modeled on interpretive trail signs. Appropriating the familiar fonts, tropes, and design components seen in posted information within nature preserves, these displays serve as guides to the species mimicked by the floating decoys. Instead of offering factual information, however, these signs engage with the aviary world through associative narratives that range from classical myths of transformation to enacted erasures of Audubon’s original depictions of these species in The Birds of America

Additionally, the display signs include scannable QR codes that afford access to a multimedia mobile-friendly website which provides audio recordings of the fictional Duck, Swan, Goose podcast. The website also allows viewers to both respond directly to the work (offering up their own on-site observations of the sculptural decoys and local bird species) as well as articulate meaningful changes they might enact in their own lives that will directly lessen environmental impact.  

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About The Artists

Ligia Bouton received her MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her creative work combines sculpture and drawing with performance, digital video, and photography to recreate appropriated narratives. Each project wrestles with the intersection of functionality and narrative, drawing on sources from art history, classical and contemporary literature, and science. Recent projects have been shown at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Guildhall Art Gallery in London, SITE Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Bouton is an Associate Professor of Sculpture at Mount Holyoke College.

Matt Donovan is the author of the collection of essays A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape: Meditations on Ruin and Redemption (Trinity University Press 2016) as well as two collections of poetry – Vellum (Mariner 2007) and Rapture & the Big Bam (Tupelo Press 2017). Donovan is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Rome Prize in Literature, a Pushcart Prize, a Creative Capital Grant, and an NEA Fellowship in Literature. Donovan is the Director of the Poetry Center at Smith College. 
In addition to Duck, Swan, Goose, Ligia Bouton and Matt Donovan have collaborated on Inheritance, a chamber opera about Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. Inheritance received a 2016 Creative Capital award and premiered at UC San Diego in 2018.