Taste Just Like Chicken: Why So Much Poultry In the Art World?

There may not be a chicken in every pot in these recessionary times, but there seems to be a chicken in every picture frame.

At the Emergency Artists' Support League's annual Art Heist fundraiser this weekend, there were etchings of roosters and sculptures of chickens. While poultry paintings didn't dominate the show, the seemingly disproportionate amount of barnyard bird art was so notable that party-goers traded explanatory theories over their acai spirit cocktails. Had local artists taken up urban chicken farming en masse? Did the works represent a beef backlash?

Art Heist organizers didn't return a message seeking comment. But Décor Magazine tackled the topic back in 2004, reporting "rooster and chicken art has been popular for many years, and consumer interest isn't fading."

According to the gallery owners quoted in the story, artists and art buyers are drawn to brightly colored feathers and funny fowl expressions. But that's just the beginning of the story, argued Patti Mann of Winn Devon Art Group.

Mann ventured into psychoanalytic territory, advancing a hypothesis that makes still more sense six years on, with the unemployment rate up four points nationwide: "In the midst of bewildering turmoil," she told the magazine, "we are seeking comfort offered by those humble symbols of hearth and home."

Perhaps rooster portrait buyers are hoping for a fresh start, a like-minded Ellen Collard of Mill Pond Press suggested.

So there might be a connection between rotten economic conditions and poultry art. But the clearest indication of the ongoing recession came at the end of the show, when unclaimed pieces were sold in a live auction: Bidders couldn't meet the $100 reserve on a number of pieces, including at least one chicken print.

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