Recently, I poured my creative energy into creating a shadowbox for my good friend Todd. He hired me as a beach nesting bird technician in 2012, a seasonal position where I had the pleasure of monitoring the nesting efforts of threatened and endangered shorebird species in coastal New Jersey. He was now retiring from NJ Fish & Wildlife after many years of excellent service to the birds and to the people that worked with him, and I wanted to give him something befitting of this service.
The creative fuel behind the creation of the shadowbox were some of the things that Todd and I always shared a mutual admiration for; piping plovers (scientifically abbreviated as PIPL), Edward Gorey, Asbury Park and its street art, and the grand beach-going attire of the Edwardian period. The piping plover chicks are promenading the boardwalk past the mermaid octopus of Casino Pier. She is cloaked in the rough waters, the eternal guardian of the boardwalk. Their mother looks on from under her dark umbrella. They are delightfully adorable, yet perpetually endangered, just like the "Gashlycrumb Tinies," an illustrated story by Edward Gorey in which each child succumbs to their fate through a variety of morbid fashions. They promenade these hallowed grounds, a perennial fixture near the water's edge. The waves crash, the winds blow, but that does not slow their stroll. They are accustomed to such a scene. They are a symbol of the wild beach, yet they are indelibly intertwined with a runaway American dream (shout-out to Bruce).