The Symbolism of the Great Egrets

The choice of great egrets for TEMPOart’s “Dancing for Joy (By the Will of the People)” is rich with symbolism and meaning. This blog post explores the deeper significance of these majestic birds and how they reflect the themes of nature, community, and love embedded in the installation.

Catalyst 2024 Photo by David Wade

Great egrets are among the most captivating birds found along the shores of Back Cove. Known for their elegant appearance and striking courtship displays, these birds are a symbol of beauty and grace in the natural world. Their presence in Back Cove is a testament to the area’s rich biodiversity and the importance of preserving local habitats.

Each spring, great egrets engage in a flamboyant mating dance, growing extravagant plumes and leaping with abandon to attract and impress a mate. This behavior is not only a fascinating natural spectacle but also a metaphor for the vibrancy and dynamism of life in Back Cove.

The Myth Makers chose great egrets as the central figures in their sculpture to highlight the connection between nature and the community. The duet of egrets performing their mating dance symbolizes the harmonious relationship between the environment and the people who visit and cherish Back Cove Trail and Park.

The sculpture also embodies themes of love and freedom. Great egrets share all nesting and child care duties, representing a partnership based on equality and mutual support. This aspect of their behavior aligns with the installation’s dedication to the freedom to marry who you love, celebrating the will of the people to democratically transform society.

“Dancing for Joy” serves as a reminder of the beauty and complexity of the natural world. By depicting great egrets in their courtship dance, the sculpture invites viewers to appreciate the wonders of local wildlife and the importance of preserving natural spaces for future generations.

The installation also enhances the sense of community within Portland. As a meeting place and interactive art piece, it encourages people to come together, explore, and engage with the artwork and each other. The various entryways of the sculpture, designed for all ages, invite everyone to participate in the joyous display of the dancing egrets.

The dedication of “Dancing for Joy” to the freedom to marry is particularly meaningful in Maine, one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through a citizen’s petition that won the popular vote in 2012. This milestone reflects the power of collective action.

By honoring this achievement, the sculpture not only celebrates love in all its forms but also serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

The great egrets of “Dancing for Joy” are more than just a visual spectacle; they are a powerful symbol of nature’s beauty, community connection, and the enduring spirit of love and freedom. As visitors encounter this magnificent installation, they are invited to reflect on these themes and join in the celebration of the vibrant life that surrounds them in Back Cove.