Rupp's question was, how to build a bird?
Inspiration about how to transform her artistic vision into reality came in the form of the children's book Make Your Own Dinosaur from Chicken Bones, along with trips to the American Museum of Natural History and one mail-ordered dead pigeon, which was a tough but necessary part of the process for the vegetarian artist.
She scavenged chicken bones from the plates of her friends at summer barbeques in the Catskills and anywhere else she could get away with it. Then she boiled, bleached, and dried the bones, drilling out the marrow to remove, as she described it, "the gushy parts." A coat of urethane sealed them shut.
Then, using a framework of metal, she constructed skeletal replicas of birds that no longer exist, including this great auk of Iceland, a penguin-like bird that plied the North Atlantic waters until the mid-1800s. While humans had hunted the auk for millennia, with Native Americans including the skins and bones in their death rituals, excessive hunting for meat and feathers was too much for the population to bear. All that remains now are museum specimens. Rupp used translucent Japanese mending papers stretched taut over the bones to create skulls that look eerily real.