Bird Watching

John James Audubon was the man. He was self-taught, painted birds better than anyone then or since, and was environmentally conscious before it was popular. So, in his honor we selected a few colorful birds, some of which escaped Audubon’s catalogue.

• A new exhibition about John James Audubon’s watercolors of birds is on view now at The New York Historical Society. Audubon was obsessed with giving birds a life of their own on the page, depicting them in the middle of tearing apart prey, building nests, and showing off their individual personalities in their natural environment. His diaries indicate that he often thought of birds in human terms and vice versa. For example, he observes that “a full grown man with a scarlet vest and breeches, black stockings and shoes for the coloring of his front, and a long blue coat covering his shoulders and back reminds me somewhat of our Summer Red Bird.” For him, the company of birds was infinitely more rewarding and interesting than the company of people.

• Barbara Franc’s Birds are constructed from recycled and discarded materials, echoing Audubon’s concern about the effects of industrialization on the environment.

• Diana Beltran Herrera has created hundreds of Birds out of colorful bits of paper.

• Tami Rodrig’s Earrings are tiny birds made of red-painted silver with a egg shell fragment for the wing.

• Bridget Farmer’s Robin is an etching in rust-brown tones, and you can take a look at how it was made here.

• Dolan Geiman’s Red Robin sits in a forest of old newspapers, magazines, and hymnals.

• Patrick and Mara’s House Bird is made of plywood painted with the markings of an American robin.

• Jessica Flanagan’s Glass Bird has a vermillion red body and white cloud-like wings.

• Jenny Mendes’ Wall Bird is a fantastical creature with a blue head, orange body, and constellations for wings.

• This Burd by Upcycle Pdx has smooth red feathers made of papier mache.

• Terri Axness’ Cardinal has a flaming red body with raku metallic glazes and a copper tail.