‘Death Parade’: the student behind the art

With bird collisions happening all around campus, there is one student advocating and fighting for these creatures through art. 

Studio Art major Amber Rousseau is a senior at WCU and is one of the first Bird Friendly Campus members. She focuses on birds through her art and scientifically through her research. After she graduates this semester, she wants to be an ornithological scientific illustrator.

The start of her role in this program was when in spring 2021 Rousseau took Dr. Jeremy Hyman’s ornithology class and she was introduced to Dr. Barbara Ballentine, biology professor and advisor of the Bird Friendly Campus Project. Dr. Ballentine asked her if she would be interested in a bird-related job in fall 2021 semester.

Amber Rousseau documents a dead bird specimen. Photo by Saydie Bean.

In 2021, Rousseau started working on a painting for an art class. “It was supposed to be about time, and I didn’t really know what to do with that; I kind of just wanted to paint a bird. This was like my first semester collecting the birds that had a lot of impact on me, and it was on my mind a lot. So I had been taking photos of the birds and I wanted to use them and kind of tell their story because I felt kind of sad that they just died in such an awful way. And then they get checked into a freezer, and that’s all that happens to them.”  

The painting “Death Parade” features dead birds parading in the sky with the colors themed from the Hispanic holiday, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Just as the holiday is celebrated in Latin America, Rousseau wanted the painting to be a celebration rather than a mourning. 

“They’re dead but they’re in the sky like they’re supposed to be. Even though they can’t fly anymore and they’re kind of like flying towards a window and the last ones like upside down cause it’s like falling.”  

Through her art, Rousseau wants to get the word out about this issue. Her painting ended up winning an art contest and the WCU Fine Art Museum acquired her painting. The painting is part a permanent collection and can be found on the fourth floor of the Apodaca Science Building.