Event Category: Art Openings and Exhibits
Bird Brain: Paintings & Prints by John Hillmer
Saturday, Feb. 15, Noon-6 p.m. / Sunday, Nov. 16, Noon-5 p.m.
Bordello Galeria Courtyard / Organos #19
John Hillmer Migrates Back to Bordello Galeria with “Bird Brain”
By K. Broomfield
Artist John Hillmer returns with a weekend pop up exhibit in the lovely Bordello Galeria courtyard on Organos in Centro. The show, “Bird Brain”, unveils a good number of paintings and prints, pretty much all of which contain birds.
“Bird Brain”, as defined by the Macmillan Dictionary, is “someone who is unintelligent, stupid or silly: fool, buffoon, clown.” Hillmer believes this is a rather silly slight on birds. “Of course human beings can be stupid, foolish, clownish or buffoonish,” he says. “Just look at me. But birds!? Not so much.”
In fact, birds, according to the great psychologist Carl Jung, are brilliant harbingers, symbols and definers of soul. A flock of birds inspired Jung’s theory that everything in the universe is intimately connected. Spectacular coincidences happen all the time — but are they simply the product of random chance, or do they convey some hidden meaning?
Hillmer’s work is chock-a-block with hidden meaning. In these paintings birds are jazz players, messengers, sentinels, spiritual forces—calm and intelligent witnesses to the grand funk. Charlie Parker was called “Bird” for good reason—a jazz genius, like a bird, playing his improvised songs, especially in his early days, in the park.
Speaking of jazz and music Hillmer’s work has accompanied—in the form of large, colorful stage murals—renowned artists like Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal, Robert Cray, and Maya Angelou. His art has also been used to announce and celebrate more than 50 music, literary, and community events across North America, including Northwest Folklife Festival and Earshot’s World Jazz Festival in Seattle, the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, and Clear Summer Nights in Bend, Oregon.
Speaking of Oregon, perhaps you’ve seen the Portlandia episode on Netflix called “Put a Bird On It”? Now, that’s some good-natured bafoonery! Says Hillmer, “I guess you could say I’ve been putting a bird on it for a very long time.”
Migration, symbol, color, form, inspiration, and play keep birds of many feathers flying into Hillmer’s art. The birds here may appear as silent truth-tellers, or as talented members of a colorfully rendered jazz or blues band, or as a screaming rooster issuing some global warning about global warming.
Speaking of harbingers, the global loss of millions of real birds is certainly telling us something. According to the National Audubon Society, “Global warming is the greatest threat to birds and other wildlife in human history. Those impacts will become more severe over the coming decades, leading to the loss of one-quarter to one-third of all species on earth, including many bird species.” With humanity’s fingerprints all over the climate crisis, one might intelligently ask, who exactly are the bird brains?
Fortunately, San Miguel de Allende still has some inspiring birdlife around—shiny black grackles screaming from leafy treetops in the afternoon, dazzling vermillion flycatchers darting among indigenous plants and trees in El Charco, stately white egrets on daily migrations back and forth to the Presa.
In the bigger picture, can art play a role in standing up or in speaking out? Yes, says Hillmer. “Art is where you start. Art is always therapy. Art is action that leads to more action.”
Start with the Hillmer show this weekend. There are some be-bopping brown sparrows and fountain-splashing black grackles in the beautiful courtyard, art all around, and even some tequila on the table—a comfy nest in which to gather and ponder the next migration.