A long time ago I slapped together some articles of clothing my mother had given me which has since become my Birdman costume. She said that she thought some of the dancers who worked with me regularly could use them. One dancer, Heloise Gold, asked me to accompany her in the performance of her piece called “Bird Dances.” She was very good at mimicking (and sometimes exaggerating) many birds’ movements and sounds. We decided that she should wear a very plain white leotard with a few feathered ruffles (typical for female song birds) and I was to dress as brightly and extravagantly as possible so I would represent the male song bird. I put on long chiffon red evening dress and wore a bright plaid rayon top from my mother’s “hostess pajamas.” I then tied a peacock feathered fan to the back of my head sticking up with a purple batiked scarf. I also wore a Buddha mask and black bull-riding boots. I wore this ensemble, often with variations, for many performances. One variation used a jacket designed by Ken Havis which I called “Shamanizing in the American Military Industrial Complex.”
I have often given arts workshops for children. Very recently I was teaching children from ages 5-12 art at Driskol Fitness Center Day Camp at the College of Santa Fe. There were about 70-80 of them getting 2-4 hours of art per week. I asked the children, who all know me as Birdman, to take the costume I had been wearing and make something they think the Birdman should wear and this is what they came up with. They absolutely did not want me to wear a dress so they made a cape out of it.
This was a good time for giving my costume a make-over. I also have recently undergone some changes in my physical appearance. I cut my hair shorter than it has been since I was a little boy and I got a tattoo. The design for the tattoo is from Hopi pottery found at Sikyakti. It is a very stylized bird hanging on the “sky band.” They sky band is said to symbolize the movement of the sun. The gap in the sky band is called the “life gate.” The bird’s body is made up of terraced rain cloud designs and one black curved rain cloud design. The curved rain cloud makes the bird look a little like a kildeer which wears a similar black bib. The rectangular area (marked with red) inside the terraced triangle could be a shrine. The x’s are stars and the other red figure could be some kind of flower divided into four parts. The number 4 is pretty significant in Hopi stories. There are said to have lived in four worlds and often actions have to occur four times in their stories before the action results in the desired change. I found the design on the David Holland CD, “Conference of the Birds.” After I got the tattoo I found information about it from the book, “Prehistoric Hopi Pottery Designs” by Jesse Walter Fewkes.
I got the tattoo on my 41st birthday. Maybe I’m going through a mid-life crisis and wanting to change like a Phoenix in the flames!