Awesome avians

(First published in the October 10, 2019 issue of City Pages)

The Woodson Museum’s Birds in Art literally shines


Seekers by Catherine McClung

It may take a bit of looking to find the feathered creatures in all the pieces of the Woodson Art Museum’s famed exhibit Bird in Art. The animals are represented in such a wide-range of ways, they’re sometimes not even the main subject. In the bronze sculpture “Circumstantial Evidence” you may miss the bird entirely until you examine what’s under the suspicious-looking fox’s paw.

    An annual exhibit since 1976, Birds in Art this year features new original paintings, sculptures and graphics all created within the last three years from 114 artists from around the globe. You can meet one of those artists, Catherine McClung, during her residency at the museum Oct. 17-20, which includes a presentation and workshop.

    Your interest in her programs might be piqued after seeing her graceful, glittering work exhibited in Birds In Art. McClung incorporates gold and silver leaf into watercolor painting to create luminous, gilded backdrops. You have to see her painting “Seekers” in person to truly appreciate the way the silver leaf catches the light and makes the piece shine, literally.

     The exhibit’s vast portrayals of birds show other innovative approaches in an array of mediums, from oil and charcoal to woodcarving. “Chatter” by Chris Maynard was created using goose feathers. Calvin Nicholls used cut and layered paper to form the owls in “The More They Saw, the Less They Spoke.” Acrylic paint and a vintage book were used to construct “Audubon’s Birds of North America” by Kerry Miller.

     The three-dimensional pieces are exceptionally spectacular this year, with sculptures formed from stainless steel, wood, bronze, clay and more. One of the most delightful sculptures is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Spencer Tinkham, of a mockingbird rested on the nose of an alligator. Viewers will also appreciate “Take Note II,” a sculpture by Parker McDonald of warblers perched on a flute. The bronze piece acknowledges the beautiful music that the birds sing.

    You’ll see commonly depicted species throughout the exhibit such as eagles, swallows, ducks and owls, along with more exotic species such ostriches and macaws. In “The Great Romance” by Heidi Willis, bright pink flamingos stand out against a black background making this piece visually stunning.

     The exhibit also allows viewers to see the beauty and poise in all birds—even the ones you typically associate with being unpleasant. In the painting “Nature’s Noble Caretakers” Cathy Weiss conveys the character and personality of rather ugly vultures. And even chickens look unexpectedly beautiful in the painting “The Stable Royals” by Carl Benders, of gloriously feathered brahma chickens in confident and majestic poses.

On view through Dec. 1. Gallery hours Tues.–Fri. 9 am–4 pm, Sat.–Sun. noon–5 pm; open until 7:30 on Thursdays during Birds in Art. Free admission. 715-845-7010,