“Look at a pigeon the same way that you would look at a rose, or a bed of wild flowers. They are beautiful and unique, with each one being different from the rest. It is a privilege to have them around us.” —Tina Trachtenburg
As residents of New York City, which has more than its fare share of feral pigeons, our reaction to them is avoidance and dislike. Perpetually in the way and nesting on buildings, causing damage with their excrement, they are a nuisance. Woody Allen in his 1980 film Stardust Memories famously called them “rats with wings.” Above all, they should not be encouraged by feeding them. Despite these many drawbacks, according to Tina Pina Trachtenburg, also known as “Mother Pigeon,” when she moved to New York City in the late 1980s, she fell in love with pigeons.
Ms. Trachtenburg has always been an animal lover. After she noticed a flock of pigeons living on the roof of her apartment building, she began feeding them. When she leaves the house to run errands, they follow her. Ms. Trachtenburg cares for, rescues, and celebrates New York’s ill-reputed feathered creatures.
Ms. Trachtenburg, along with her husband and daughter make art, music, and their own clothes. She and her family make up the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, a band and online multimedia musical production. In one form or another, Ms. Trachtenburg has been making art all her life.
Mother Pigeon has now turned her artistic and sewing skills to making art in the shape of the pigeon. These soft sculptures, mostly in the shape of New York City’s ubiquitous pest, even in Brooklyn, where she shares a railroad apartment with her husband Jason and daughter Rachel, bring together her life-long love of art and animals.
Her soft-pigeon sculptures are her way to help the public understand that pigeons are beautiful. The sculptures, when arranged as tableaux du feutre in Washington and Union Squares, became street art. She spends her days making felt pigeons and putting on what she calls “Flashflock Outstallations” (versus installations) around New York. According to Ms. Trachtenburg, her newfound purpose is a dream come true. Her pigeon creations bear an uncanny resemblance to the real thing. Adding the wedge of felt pizza for her New York City Nature Scene flock to nibble is an amusing and clever touch.
Ms. Trachtenburg creates the pigeons using acrylic felt. She uses recycled clothing to stuff the body; and the heads are stuffed with polyester fiberfill. The feet of the pigeons are formed from wire, wrapped in pink, red or black yarn. The feet are bendable, to wrap around objects or flattened out to sit on a table, bookshelf or the paving stones in Washington Square. Black plastic coating is used to make the toenails. The beaks are fabric facing. The artist-activist has handcrafted over a hundred stuffed pigeons.
She uses the pigeons that she sees throughout the city as models. Dark ones, charcoal, or light gray, black ones have been duplicated, and have found a home in her felt menagerie. Her favorite is the common Blue Bar Pigeon, with its light gray to black face and two blue bars at the base of their wings.
Ms. Trachtenburg has expanded her collection of felt creations to include other species of birds, red cardinals and crows. From rats of with wings to rats without wings, her latest creations are the common city rat. She has placed them at the entrance to the Union Square subway, for them appear if they scurrying into the system.
This bevy of birds can be followed online. It has its own Facebook page and be followed on Instagram, using hashtag #flashflock. Live and in person, Mother Pigeon can be found in Washington Square and Union Square, Central Park, and Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhood, Williamsburg, among other NYC venues.
We may see Mother Pigeon and her creations during our Five Squares and a Circle Tour, that begins in Washington Square, one of the locations where she minds her flock. Or we may come across her at Union Square, the second stop on the same Tour.