Whidbey sculpture chosen for La Conner exhibit

A mixed-media owl sculpture by a Clinton resident was selected for the “Birds of a Fiber” exhibit.

A Whidbey work of art is taking wing to the mainland.

A mixed-media owl sculpture by Clinton resident Penelope Bourk was selected for the sixth annual “Birds of a Fiber” exhibit at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner.

The sculpture is 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide and features an owl with woven wings atop a nest fashioned from the upturned roots of a madrona tree. The surface of the owl’s body is covered in wasp paper from an abandoned nest that fell on Bourk’s property during a storm. Bourk said when she examined the wasp’s nest, she noticed it had similar markings to those of the great horned owls she often sees through her skylight.

The piece is called “Holding the Rim Through Thick and Thin: Tending those we love and what we value.” Bourk said the idea developed because she wanted to create something to process the crises of the last few years. Between the pandemic, political turmoil, the war in Ukraine, ongoing environmental disasters and more, she felt as though she was being spun out of control.

“I felt like so many of us were white-knuckling in our lives, just sort of holding ourselves and our communities together,” she said.

She liked the idea of the “rim” not being a place of distress, but the edges of something that holds a center of promise. There are eggs in the nest made of madrona wood, which Bourk described as “crackling with life.”

Bourk, who is originally from the Vancouver area in Canada and has lived on Whidbey Island since 2006, has been working with fiber for 40 years and carving wood for 20 years. Though her background is in mythological studies, she said she loves art for the “wonderful melding of heart, mind and hands” that it provides her.

She said she came upon the La Conner exhibit almost by accident; she joined the Whidbey Weaving Guild in November of last year and happened to learn about the exhibit. On a whim, she submitted “Holding the Rim” and was selected.

“Penelope’s piece is absolutely stunning and we are thrilled she entered it for consideration,” museum Executive Director Amy Green wrote in an email. “We spent very little time thinking about it and immediately replied that we wanted it in the exhibit!”

Green added that the piece is unique because of its size and mixed media components. “Birds of a Fiber” is a popular exhibit that receives entries from all over the world.

The exhibit runs Jan. 25 through Feb. 26. An opening reception will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 28. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.