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Artist to Birds: eat my suit

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Sculptor Mark Bello doesn't have a Christ complex or Saint Francis fantasy, but he's inviting a bunch of birds to a lakeside brunch--on him. He'll be wearing a cosmopolitan suit of bread featuring baguettes, chappathi, matzo, pita, and Wonder.

Bello titles his one-man bird-feeding act Beneath the Bread, part of Randolph Street Gallery's Off Site Specific performance series. After pecking away at his outer garment, Bello's winged accomplices will reveal his underlying message: a skeleton costume. Beneath the flesh, our bodies all come down to bones, Bello implies, whether we're birds, Buddhists, or Bears fans.

Bello got the inspiration for Beneath the Bread last Halloween from a cashier at the K mart at Ashland and Milwaukee, where he was buying a pair of plastic trick-or-treat buckets shaped like human skulls. He planned to use one to store his change and the other to hold kitchen utensils. At the checkout counter, the elderly woman held up one skull and said, "This is you," then picked up the other one and said, "This is me." In spare English, she explained: "No white, no black, no beautiful, no ugly, no rich, no poor."

The piece isn't Bello's first scrutiny of mortality. His 1992 installation titled The Unbiased Candidate enshrined a voracious piranha in a 55-gallon tank on a podium outfitted in red, white, and blue bunting. More than 200 nutritious--and symbolic--goldfish were sacrificed for the cause. "It was like a 3-D living, breathing political cartoon," explains Bello, who concocted an accompanying campaign poster that read "Fast as lightning, he skeletonizes his prey."

This Saturday at noon Bello may face the same fate when he serves a flock of feathered fans in front of the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive. He's staging a couple of trial runs on his lunch hours first. The rain date is Saturday, June 25. For more info, call Randolph Street Gallery at 666-7737.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Charles Eshelman.

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