Dr. Bird - Bronzeville Jerk Shack (2015)
5055 S Prairie Ave, Chicago IL
This 4’ x 4’ ceramic tile and stained glass mosaic was commissioned by the Bronzeville Jerk Shack located at 5055 S. Prairie -Chicago, IL. The faux finished custom frame was intentionally designed and constructed to resemble an old shack window.
The Dr. Bird
The red-billed streamer-tail (Trochilus polytmus), also known as the doctor bird, scissor-tail humming bird is indigenous to Jamaica, that is, it lives ONLY in Jamaica. It is the national bird of Jamaica. They are small, colorful birds with iridescent feathers that seem to change when seen from different angles. This is a characteristic only of that family. Their name comes from the fact that they flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. Hummingbirds can fly as fast as 60 miles per hour during courtship displays, but their average flying speed is closer to 30 miles per hour. In addition to their beautiful feathers, the mature male sports a (6-7 inch) long tail which streams behind him when he is in flight.
There seem to be varying opinions with regards to the origin of the name ‘Doctor-bird’. It has been speculated that the name was given because of the erect black crest and tails that resembles the top hat and long-tail coats that were worn by doctors in the old days. However, others believe that the name came about because of the way the birds lance the flowers with their bills to extract nectar. Whichever way it is looked at, this bird has so many features that many conclusions can be drawn as to the reason behind its name.
In most rural parts of Jamaica today, there is a belief that killing a Doctor Bird will bring bad luck. It is not easy, however, to kill a Doctor Bird. This belief is manifested in a folk song which says: “Doctor Bud a cunny bud, hard bud fe dead” which translates to “It is a clever bird which cannot be easily killed”. The Jamaican “Doctor Bird" has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song for many years.
This mosaic interpretation of "The Dr. Bird" was created with ceramic tile and stained glass by mosaicist Carolyn Elaine.
I enjoy a different relationship with mosaics than with more fragile or transient forms of visual art, in that my experience of them is not limited to the visual. Viewed whole at a distance, with the light playing across their varied surfaces, mosaics are beautiful, but their fractured intricacy also invites us to come up close; to touch them, to explore the differences in texture and height of their individual components, to experience the harmony of their movement with our fingertips as well as with our eyes.
I trust that The Dr. Bird brings with it (all the way from Jamaica) longevity and good fortune to the Bronzeville Jerk Shack.