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David Crawford
The Story Behind the Art.. .

A Marriage of Purpose
Dry Dock Pelican with Attitude

We know that most any animal that humans share space with is going to end up being experimented with,. What sort of deal can be made in terms of man’s interests? But what has been a source of intrigue to me is the use of animals as laborers, animals as tools, the bending of the animal’s mind and body to the purposes of doing man’s work. 


I would dearly love to go back through time, to the beginning of animal husbandry, and witness the progression of our inter-species relationships, and how communities reacted to those truly revolutionary moments that

permanently altered the course of history. There was no getting to where we are now without the amazing contributions of our non-human fellow Earthlings.


But camels are not the sort of animal I would have expected humans to befriend. It takes a ladder to get on one, and they are well known for their haughty arrogance as well as for their talent at expectorating great and hideous loogies when only slightly miffed. And in the case of the dromedary, they are pretty pointy to make for a good ride. 


But the thing is, a camel can go for many days without water. Camels don’t need much in the way of forage, and a camel is serious business in the realm of freighting: two camels can carry what a modern pickup-truck can carry. 


So, it was inevitable that we humans would find a way to utilize these remarkable creatures. I think we owe the camel a toast to their contribution to the pioneering spirit of man. Most of the inhabited earth has been peopled by nomads, and camels, despite their vile spitting and their generally condescending attitude, have done a yeoman’s job of helping us expand our range. 


And, I expect if I knew a camel personally, I would find that they are not so very antisocial as we’re led to

believe. Perhaps if I could spit like a camel, and walk 25 miles in a day, carrying 500, or a thousand pounds, I’d be right there with them, looking down my muzzle at the sadly common creatures around me. 

Birds get our attention. They are naturals that way. That being the case, among birds, a pelican really gets our attention! I can’t look away, as my car careens back and forth between the rumble strips on I-84 as it courses along the Columbia, when the pelicans are out and about! It is a very good thing that the traffic in those parts is scarce. 


I love pelicans, and I don’t even know a single one. But I have wax, and everyone who’s been to a wax museum knows you can make a famous person out of wax. So, certainly one can make a pelican. My pelican is part of a bird series I’m doing. I call it “Dry Dock” because it looks like it needs a great deal of repair to be either seaworthy or capable of flight. But I think the essence of the pelican has neither to do with flight nor floating. They are absolutely marvelous in flight, they bob like a cork, and they dive like a submarine, but just standing on a pier post, they command the scene like a judge commands the big chair in a court proceeding. With authority!


Dry Dock is one of two birds I’ve been working on that borrow their hull form from the mariners trade. Inspired in part by fishing vessels of days gone by, or the little dinghies that languish in backwater bays. The bird form is the foundation of the boat form. 


Like my other recent bird, I wanted to meld mechanical concepts with biological form, giving homage to human efforts at approximating the talents of “bird”. Like a real pelican, I think my pelican is a quiet piece, silent in its attitude, patient in its demeanor, and regal even in its dilapidated condition. 


Of course, the pouch, or gular of the pelican is both comical and wonderfully gifted as an adaptation! My Grandfather was a bit of a closet poet, or at least a reciter of poetry, and one of his go-to (repeatable) poems went like this: 

A big white bird is a pelican

His beak holds more food than his belly can

Enough in his beak to last for a week

And I don’t see how in the hell he can


Perhaps not the most serious literary piece ever written, 

But as a kid I was smitten,

And by the poetry bug I was bitten.

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