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PHOTO: Sarah Hudock
The cast of characters among the flock can be diverse. Some make us laugh and some exhibit superior intellect while others are curious and creative. It’s similar with the keepers themselves, and chicken keeper/artist Sarah Hudock is one of a kind.
Chickens And Their Gorgeous Dorkiness
“My art resonates because people who keep chickens know how utterly dorky and humorous chickens can be,” says Hudock, whose chicken art adorns fun signs, ornaments, rugs, calendars and dish towels. “At the same time, chickens have incredible beauty and dignity about them. It’s a sort of gorgeous dorkiness.”
Hudock’s paintings didn’t always focus solely on chickens. “But that’s what people responded to,” she says, noting that her art covers societal feelings and trends. Lately, those have shifted toward environmental responsibility, organic food, sustainability and nostalgia. “Even those who don’t want to raise chickens have a wistful idea of what it would be like.”
Hudock’s chicken art may tap into a romanticized concept of Americana, a simpler time and a vintage, back-to-the-farm feel, but it’s not windmills, barns and endless cornfields. Her colorful artwork is often up-close and personal, capturing an intelligent or curious look in a chicken’s eye that keepers recognize. She couples that realism with human themes that make people smile, such as her cocktail hour and wine o’cluck designs. In the world of Hudock’s art, chickens ice-skate, cook and chick-or-treat.
An Artist’s Flock
Although Hudock now keeps laying and meat flocks at her Vermont residence, she wasn’t always so keen on them. She grew up on a small farm, and her parents had chickens. It was her job to clean the coop, and she resented it. Back then, she didn’t have the warm relationship with the chickens she now does. In recent years, she became interested in stepping outside the industrial food system and began seeing chicken keeping in a new light.
Like so many of us, she has grown close to her laying flock.
“You have them for many years,” she says. “They become pets. You interact with them every day and get to know their individual personalities.” It’s those unique personalities that inform her art and tug at her heartstrings.
Several months ago, a fire swept through her area and took out half her flock. “Some were badly burned,” she says. “But they have an incredible will to live.” She describes one that lost all her toes and feathers. “But she’s still laying.”
Hudock has no qualms about the short lives of the meat flock she also keeps. She works hard to make sure they’re happy and thriving until their last moment. “It’s done humanely and quickly,” she says.
Having spent decades in unfulfilling jobs and a corporate career to pay the bills, Hudock credits her husband’s love for getting her past her fears and pursuing her artistic dream. With his encouragement, she dropped her day job and now paints every day. Sometimes, she wiles away hours in research for her art, watching her chicken models go about their cheerful lives. And she’s just as happy, a fact that’s loud and clear from her work.
You can find out more about Hudock and her poultry art at www.chickenart.com.