If you are a bird lover, art lover, or anything in between, you owe yourself a visit to the current exhibit at Gallery 310 on the campus of Marietta College. Time is running out to see Audubon and the Avian Experience – this amazing little show ends on November 8th.
As the title suggests, one of the show’s stars is the late John James Audubon, that legendary naturalist and illustrator of America’s birds. Framed color plates from the Marietta College Special Collection are on display, their vivid colors and meticulous details demanding a closer look. Audubon liked to portray birds in their natural habitat doing what birds naturally do, so their delicate beauty is tempered by violent acts of survival.
It’s easy to see why the Europeans, and later Americans, were atwitter about Audubon’s work. His exhaustive collection of beautifully accurate color plates provided a glimpse into the exotic world of wild birds in a new nation. In Gallery 310 you can appreciate a small sampling, from Blue Jays pillaging the eggs from another nest to the lovely plumage of birds among the foliage.
Sharing the wall space with Audubon’s rich colors are the muted, delicate works of Julie Zickefoose—artist, author and a commentator for NPR. If you are a fan of Bird Watcher’s Digest, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Julie’s work on the cover. This exhibit includes some of her lovely watercolors along with sketches and handwritten narratives. They provide a striking contrast to the Audubon plates, and evoke a personal connection with the artist. It’s interesting to see her sketch of a Wild Turkey in black and white, hanging next to the full color Audubon plate of the same bird.
For another perspective of our avian friends, Leigh Cox provides stunning illustrations in brush and ink. We met Leigh last year in this article, and fell in love with her work. She combines her artistic skill and sharp wit to create images that can be quirky and realistic at the same time. For this exhibit, the striking details in black ink convey the beauty of nature even when the bird is feeding on a lifeless victim.
The Avian Experience isn’t just about natural realism. Perched on pedestals and columns are the whimsical mixed media works of Sarah Walko – artist, director, curator and writer. Walko has combined natural elements like feathers, stone and wood with manmade items such as glass, metal and found objects. The result is a collection of pieces that may not be birdlike at first glance. But examine them closely to admire the details, then step back for broader perspective. You will sense the avian qualities represented by their shape, their texture, and their position in the space.
This small exhibit is a beautiful juxtaposition of vivid colors, detailed drawings and ethereal creations. Located on the third floor of the Hermann Fine Arts Building, Gallery 310 is open Saturday from noon – 5:00. It’s free and open to the public, so treat yourself and check it out.