“Darwin’s Finches” flock to Bryan Art Gallery


Photo by Joshua Carroll

Guanlao’s birds are made from recycled fabric material

Coming soon to the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery is an exhibit like no other. In October, guest artist Eloisa Guanlao will have her “Darwin’s Finches” exhibit shown there.

At face value, it features a growing array of colorful fabric birds, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Guanlao said the inspiration came to her while she was hiking with her family and photographing endangered birds they encountered.

They came across a cerulean warbler, an indigenous bird to Alabama, and it was dead. The idea of collecting birds came across her mind but she would rather take pictures of endangered ones.

That was when Guanlao said she got the idea to create birds out of fabric. However, she also managed to make use of materials from her kids’ old clothes.

“I was throwing out my kids’ old clothes, ‘cause they grow really fast and they were pretty young then. I just upcycled their outgrown clothes, and then I just turned them into birds,” she said.

She said the core focus behind “Darwin’s Finches” is how climate change and migration are connected and how it affects these birds. However, these are also running themes throughout her other works as well. Her main themes consist of migration, colonialism and technological innovations. Guanlao said these themes are usually intertwined.

“I look through time and space and how they’ve affected, I guess, us earthlings, because all three are usually intertwined,” she said.

She said she isn’t limited to any particular medium. Instead, Guanlao said her work is conceptually driven. Once there is a good concept or issue she wants to cover arises, then she said she chooses her media to deliver her message.

Guanlao has had a long history with art, with her father being one of her inspirations growing up. He was a comic book artist in the Philippines, where she was born, and created cartoons for companies such as Disney and Warner Bros.

“He would bring his work home and I would help him paint in the cells,” Guanlao said.

Born in the Philippines, Guanlao said a lot of her inspiration is pulled from her upbringing there. Additionally, she said one of her upcoming pieces will be about colonialism in her home country.

This will feature life-sized iterations of the “Birhenng Antipolo,” a Filipino iteration of the Virgin Mary.

“I like to look at what objects mean, you know, and how societies and cultures give meaning to them over space and time,” Guanlao said.

The gallery will run from Monday, Oct. 17, through Friday, Nov. 1. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. There will also be an artist reception on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 4:30 p.m.