worrying, too: The bird didn't have the dynamism he sought. Then one day, in a
flash of inspiration, he took one of the basswood "cornstalks" that was
lying uprooted on the redwood base from which the bird rose and stood it
upright but at a slight angle, just behind the bird's right wing.
"I can't tell
you the excitement we felt at that moment," Brown says. "I could see
that one small touch—the upright, angling cornstalk—gave me just what I'd
envisioned. At least 90% of it, maybe 110%. It gave the entire grouping the
height it had been lacking, and the broken top of the stalk points the way the
bird is going—up and out. A lot of art critics might say that a work this
detailed, or this 'representational,' isn't art at all, but rather mere
copying. But at bedrock all art is imitative. Music grows from the sound of
wind and water, the sounds of life on this planet."
By summer's end,
with the bird nearly complete, Vermonters from miles around began drifting up
the Browns' long, dirt driveway, past the low-slung split-level house Porter
designed eight years ago, hoping for a glimpse of the bird through a studio
window. All were invited in, but not for long. "They kept wanting to touch
the feathers," Mary says. "They were convinced it was just another
'stuffed bird,' and although that was a compliment to our success in one way,
it was also very dangerous. Each of those feathers represents a day in the
life. And they're extremely fragile."
carvings the Browns had received from $10,000 to $40,000 from collectors. The
price tag on this creation—it has not been sold as yet—is $100,000. So hands
off was the watchword.
stunned by the work, asked how one could keep all those feathers clean and
the buyer a free brush," quipped Porter, "once the check has
Now Mary was not
amused. "We don't do this for the money," she insisted. "Yet we set
the price high because we value our own work, and we value the creation
There's really no
need to apologize. In this era of a surging "collectibles" market,
particularly in wildlife art, the turkey would certainly seem to be worth its
six-figure price tag.
The high point of
pride for the Browns came when Wallin dropped by to study the bird. He stood
for a long couple of minutes, eyeballing it, then walked around it, taking in
every detail, even counting the primary and the secondary feathers. Then he
stepped back and made his evaluation.