The Hieronymus Bosch Demon Bird Was Spotted Riding the New York City Subway the Other Day…

To me, the great promise of home­school­ing is that one day your child might, on their own ini­tia­tive, ride the New York City sub­ways dressed in a home­made, needle­felt­ed cos­tume mod­eled on the ice-skat­ing bird mes­sen­ger from Hierony­mus Bosch’s The Temp­ta­tion of St. Antho­ny.

Rae Stim­son, aka Rae Swon, a Brook­lyn-based artist who did just that a lit­tle over a week ago, describes her upbring­ing thus­ly:

Grow­ing up I was home schooled in the coun­try­side by my mom who is a sculp­tor and my dad who is an oil painter, car­pen­ter, and many oth­er things. Most of my days were spent draw­ing and observ­ing nature rather than doing nor­mal school work. Learn­ing tra­di­tion­al art tech­niques had always been very impor­tant to me so that I can play a role in keep­ing these beau­ti­ful meth­ods alive dur­ing this con­tem­po­rary trend of dig­i­tal, non­rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al, and con­cep­tu­al art. I make tra­di­tion­al art­work in a wide vari­ety of medi­ums, includ­ing wood­carv­ing, oil paint­ing, etch­ing, nee­dle felt­ing, and alter­na­tive process pho­tog­ra­phy.

Not every home­school­er, or, for that mat­ter, Wal­dorf stu­dent, is into nee­dle felt­ing. It only seems that way when you com­pare the num­bers to their coun­ter­parts in more tra­di­tion­al school set­tings…

Even the tini­est crea­ture pro­duced by this method is a labor inten­sive propo­si­tion, where­in loose woolen fibers are soaked, soaped, and jabbed with a nee­dle until they come togeth­er in a rough mat, suit­able for shap­ing into the whimsical—or demonic—figure of its creator’s choos­ing.

Stim­son matched her full-head bird mask to the one in the paint­ing by equip­ping it with gloves, a blan­ket cloak, long vel­vet ears, and a leaf­less twig emerg­ing from the spout of its hand-paint­ed fun­nel hat.

An accom­plished milliner, Stim­son was drawn to her subject’s unusu­al head­gear, telling HuffPo’s Priscil­la Frank how she wished she could ask Bosch about the var­i­ous ele­ments of his “beau­ti­ful demon-bird” and “what, if any, sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance they hold.”

The answer lies in art his­to­ry writer Stan­ley Meisler’s Smith­son­ian mag­a­zine arti­cle, “The World of Bosch”:

…a mon­ster on ice skates approach­es three fiends who are hid­ing under a bridge across which pious men are help­ing an uncon­scious Saint Antho­ny. The mon­ster, wear­ing a badge that Bax says can be rec­og­nized as the emblem of a mes­sen­ger, bears a let­ter that is sup­pos­ed­ly a protest of Saint Antho­ny’s treat­ment. But the let­ter, accord­ing to (Bosch schol­ar and author Dirk) Bax, is in mir­ror writ­ing, a sure sign that the mon­ster and the fiends are mock­ing the saint. The mon­ster wears a fun­nel that sym­bol­izes intem­per­ance and waste­ful­ness, sports a dry twig and a ball that sig­ni­fy licen­tious mer­ry­mak­ing, and has lop­ping ears that show its fool­ish­ness. All this might have been obvi­ous to the artist’s con­tem­po­raries when the work was cre­at­ed, but the aver­age mod­ern view­er can only hope to under­stand the over­all intent of a Bosch paint­ing, while regard­ing the scores of bizarre mon­sters and demons as a kind of dark and cru­el com­ic relief.

A field guide to Bosch’s bizarre images in the same arti­cle gives view­ers leave to inter­pret any and all fun­nels in his work as a cod­ed ref­er­ence to deceit and intem­per­ance… per­haps at the hands of a false doc­tor or alchemist!

Not every sub­way rid­er caught the arty ref­er­ence. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, some even refused to acknowl­edge the strange being in their midst. Those folks must not share Stimson’s ded­i­ca­tion to exam­in­ing “that which is unfa­mil­iar, seek­ing out all that is yet unknown to you in both art and life.”

With­in 24 hours of its Met­ro­pol­i­tan Tran­sit Author­i­ty adven­ture, the one-of-a-kind demon-bird cos­tume was sold on Etsy.

(Holler if you wish Stim­son had kept it around long enough to take a spin on the ice at Rock­e­feller Cen­ter or Bryant Park, where the major­i­ty of patrons would no doubt be glid­ing around in igno­rance that, as per Meisler, Bosch equat­ed skates with fol­ly.)

See more of Rae Stimson’s nee­dle-felt­ed cre­ations, includ­ing a full-body alien robot cos­tume and a sculp­ture of author Joyce Car­ol Oates with her pet chick­en in her Etsy shop.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fig­ures from Hierony­mus Bosch’s “The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights” Come to Life as Fine Art Piñatas

Hierony­mus Bosch Fig­urines: Col­lect Sur­re­al Char­ac­ters from Bosch’s Paint­ings & Put Them on Your Book­shelf

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is a New York City-based home­school­er, author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her at The Tank NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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