Visual Arts Alumnus David Brooks ’09 (left) and Mentor Mark Dion (right) at The Great Bird Blind Debate © Ivy Linn

Mark Dion and David Brooks ’09 Collaborate in ‘The Great Bird Blind Debate’

BY Brittany Nguyen, October 19, 2020

Visual Arts Mentor Mark Dion and Alumnus David Brooks ’09 collaborate for The Great Bird Blind Debate Exhibition at Planting Fields Foundation in Oyster Bay, New York. 


The exhibition “ushers in the Foundation’s new Catalyst program created to bring newly commissioned work by living artists to the site with the goal of continuing the legacy of arts patronage embraced by the Coes,” according to the Planting Fields Foundation. The installations are all composed within the Carl F. Wedell Bird Sanctuary, and a corresponding exhibition including the artists’ renderings and models for the project is on display inside Coe Hall. 


Dion and Brooks are conceptual artists known for incorporating elements of ecology in their works, exploring the relationship between individuals and their built and natural environments. This is their first collaboration.


“The works frame Dion’s and Brooks’ dueling views on birdwatching or ‘birding’ as an activity and birders as a distinct community, with reflection upon the character and vulnerability of the habitat the observer occupies. Like the artists, both of whom have participated in numerous ornithology expeditions, Planting Fields founder W.R. Coe was also a bird enthusiast and endowed the Professor of Ornithology position at Yale University, an appointment that historically and currently has been filled by the world’s leading ornithologists”


The Planting Fields Foundation is also selling an accompanying book with the same title in conjunction with the exhibition. The book features over 100 color images by David Almeida and Jeffrey Jenkins, alongside an exchange between Dion and Brooks. 


Dion was born in 1961 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He initially studied in 1981-2 at the Hartford Art School of the University of Hartford in Connecticut, which awarded him a BFA (1986) and honorary doctorate in 2002. From 1983 to 1984 he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and then the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program (1984-1985). He is an Honorary Fellow of Falmouth University in the UK (2014), and has an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (Ph.D.) from The Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia (2015).


Brooks has had major exhibitions at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, MoMA PS1 in New York City, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York, along with exhibitions at the Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, Vizcaya Museum in Miami, Florida and major commissions from The Trust for Governors Island, Art Production Fund with the Times Square Alliance, and deCordova Museum, Massachusetts.


The Great Bird Blind Debate is currently open to the public now through fall of 2021. Park hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily and Coe Hall hours are 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Guided tours of the exhibition are also available now. 

Work from "The Great Blind Bird Debate can be viewed below.