The male satin bowerbird is known for his extremely complex courtship ritual of creating a bower and embellishing it with various found objects in the hopes of wooing a female. Often decorating his space with blue materials (ranging from ballpoint pens, straws, glass shards, stones, shells, and feathers), the male satin bowerbird precisely considers the quality of each object in relation to the composition of his bower – else he risks disinteresting the female, thus losing his chance at mating. The courtship ritual concludes with the female choosing the male with the best collection of items.

Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus newtoniana), New South Wales, Australia. Photo from The BBC. 


Formally trained in working with textiles, Jane Perkins has adapted to a practice similar to that of the male satin bowerbird. Through collecting plastic objects of all sorts, Perkins selectively places them within elaborate compositions, while maintaining the original nature of the found piece. Just as each bird’s bower displays unique objects that make it distinguishable from other bowers, no two pieces of art by Perkins are the same. Though known for her practice of reproducing classic works of art using recycled plastics, each reproduction is one-of-a-kind due to the variability of its material form.

Afghan Girl - Jane Perkins
Afghan Girl – Jane Perkins

Perkins and the bowerbird are both “artists in found materials”, and her artist site further explains her identification with the bird.

Plastic Classics

Her current project, Plastic Classics, reanimates masterpieces of art using found objects that match the size, shape, and color of the piece that she replicates. Notably, Perkins does not alter the quality of the objects, every material is true to its found state. The artist channels a legacy of past artists reiterating previously created forms. As she states on her gallery page:

“re-interpreting work by previous artists is nothing new. Centuries ago, artists learned their craft by re-working paintings by their predecessors. Picasso famously copied works by many artists, creating 44 studies of Velazquez’ Las Meninas alone, with his unique style. Da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa has been re-worked many times by artists including Marcel Duchamp who gave her a beard.”

From reinterpretations of Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring, to Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, to various classics of 19th-century Impressionism, Perkins recycles both material objects and past ideas to reveal new and intricate beauty. See what her recycled works reveal to you!

Article by Cheyenne Cunning

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