The images above are from El Arte: Echoes of Cuba a group exhibition on view at Clearwater’s Main Library this past summer that included the work of Tampa Bay artist Lynn Rattray. The work is part of her ongoing project creating portraits of the Historic Ybor City chickens. Each work she creates includes a biography of the bird.
Information on Ybor’s Colonel from the exhibition-
“In 2016, a law was broken. In the dark of night, a dingy bedraggled rooster was dropped off in the streets of Ybor City. Thrown away by his owner, he had little chance of survival in the feral community and his future seemed bleak.
Fast forward: He ascended to become the superstar of Centennial Park. Soon stunning in both appearance and character, he was dubbed, The Colonel, and a group of diverse humans became his fan club. Our Colonel was the guardian of baby chicks and new mama hens, protecting the little families from danger. Now when this artist sits in the silence of the park, she still feels the magic of our Colonel and sheds a tear for a life well lived.”
More detail on the Ybor City chicken project from her artist statement-
…A portion of her portfolio is dedicated to the free roaming chickens of Historic Ybor City. “Why chickens”, you might ask. The history of these beautiful birds dates back to 1885, when Tampa’s cigar industry was first established by Vincent Martinez Ybor. Moving his industry first from Cuba to Key West, he ultimately rebuilt in Tampa. His hopeful workers brought their families, and their chickens, from Key West, dreaming of a new and prosperous future. When the Great Depression hit that same year, the economy crashed and the cigar factories shuttered their doors.
Forced to seek new opportunities, the workers moved on, leaving their chickens behind to fend for themselves. Having adapted to life on the streets, the descendants of those original birds proudly remain in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City, linking us all to that bygone era. It’s the descendants of these original chickens that Lynn paints. Having spent much time observing the chickens, it is each bird’s personality that she seeks to capture, as much as the likeness. Working hand-in-hand with Dylan Breese, founder of Ybor Chicken’s Society, and The Ybor Misfits Micro-Sanctuary, (@theybormisfits), a recently established 503(1)(c) non-profit designed to help sick and injured chickens.
This collaboration assures that each portrait reflects not only the likeness but more importantly, the personality of the bird.
Rattray has a studio in the Kress Contemporary building in Ybor City and it is often open to the public. There you can find more of her chicken portraits as well as see the other charming paintings she is working on. The image below is of her studio at last night’s Ybor Arts Tour.