On Sunday, the photographer and performance artist Ventiko attempted to bring her emotional support peacock with her on a United Airlines flight leaving from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport and bound for Los Angeles. The airline said no.
Ventiko had bought a ticket for her peacock, named Dexter, so it could sit beside her on the flight. A United Airlines spokesperson explained to Fox News that the “animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.” The spokesperson also emphasized that this was relayed to the passenger “on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.”
The peacock’s Instagram account shows it perched near baggage claim. “Spent 6 hours trying to get on my flight to LA 😤🐣,” it says, “(after following all required protocol).” Dexter’s “human friends” came to the rescue and are driving him cross-country.
In New York, Ventiko (whose work has previously been featured on Hyperallergic) is known to bring her peacock with her everywhere. Hyperallergic editor Seph Rodney recalls riding in the passenger seat of a truck with Ventiko at the wheel and Dexter the peacock sandwiched between them. Ventiko kept a pee pad on her lap.
A former neighbor of the artist’s in Bushwick, who preferred to speak with Hyperallergic anonymously, says the first time she saw Dexter he was “being taken around the block on a leash by Ventiko.” (The neighbor adds that her parents were visiting; “we were all a little flummoxed.”)
According to the neighbor, who lived there from 2014 to 2015, Dexter wore a harness and squawked loudly. “He definitely startled my cat on one or two occasions.” Ventiko also informed her neighbor that the peacock was modeling for her art project and would only be living there temporarily. “She seems to have held on to Dexter for longer than originally planned,” the neighbor added.
Reached by Hyperallergic, Ventiko declined to comment on the situation.
I keep a peacock tail costume strapped to my chair at work (long story), so I can attest to how this animal’s brilliant plumes provide some sense of comfort — or at least make daily life a bit more exciting. But I have a strong suspicion that this peacock isn’t providing as much emotional support as extending a very entertaining art project.