Bird lovers and environmentalists around the world hold the name John James Audubon (1785-1851) in high esteem. Others find their admiration reduced by the knowledge that Audubon, like many influential figures in American history, also periodically bought and sold a small number of slaves.
In contrast to the legacies of some slave-owners who invested a lot of energy and resources into maintaining that “peculiar institution,” Audubon at least appears to have been more interested in his pursuits as an artist and naturalist. In this regard, his gifts to the world continue to prove valuable to descendants of those who lived in freedom and those who survived as slaves during his lifetime.
When we look at the treasured body of his work, including numerous paintings and drawings of birds found in America, it’s easy to see why Audubon is remembered in a mostly favorable light. His classic, The Birds of America , from Drawings Made In The United States And Their Territories, was published in 1838. The pages contained 435 hand-colored engravings of 1,065 birds from 489 species. He is, arguably, more celebrated today as a naturalist, ornithologist, and painter, than he is reviled as a slave-holder. That is particularly important for this creative and the art series subject of this post: Birds of a Bronzed Audubon Feather.
New Visual Interpretations
Because Audubon’s original works still stand well enough on their own, I wanted to create modern visual interpretations which pay tribute to his visionary artistry. The online “Birds of a Bronzed Audubon Feather” series posted at Fine Art America so far consists of the following 4 canvases:
A Strange Kind of Paradox
Many consider the artist and naturalist’s legacy exceptionally significant in our modern times as we battle against levels of environmental injustice and climate change he likely could never have imagined. Ironically, he disagreed with the choice to make the eagle America’s national emblem, or “standard,” because of what he described as the bird’s tendency to steal prey captured by other birds. Different varieties were plentiful in his lifetime but have gone on and off endangered species lists over the last few decades.
Any number of Americans thought the turkey a better candidate to serve as the country’s national symbol. Interestingly enough, given the presence of turkey’s on dinner tables during contemporary holiday observances, in some ways it has become the preferred national fowl.
Audubon’s sensitivity to the issue might strike some as a strange kind of paradox given his apparent lack of worries when it came to maintaining human livestock as investment properties. It must be admitted, however, that he was then, and is now, far from being alone in any perceived failure to reconcile ethical misbehavior with passionate creative pursuits.
Creator of Authentic Silk-Featherbrush Artstyle
Author of Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah
Co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Pandemics, wars, racism, and climate change have ways of derailing some of our very best stated intentions. Start-ups fail to get started. Planned families get put on hold. Dream vacations remain dreams to be pursued another day.
While my Bright Skylark Literary Productions has taken more than a few unsettling hits of its own this year, I’m grateful for what has been achieved up to this point. Moreover, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to promising projects still in development.
A Couple of Highlights So Far
Participation in two major offline events played significant roles helping to reconnect with live audiences and patrons after the restrictive distances imposed by COVID-19 for the past two years. The first event was the Authors Day observance held March 27 in Lafayette Square in Savannah, Georgia (USA). The display table showcasing Bright Skylark products was more unique than most participants’ because it not only contained books, but first-print artwork and photography, greeting cards, and collectible giveaways. Copies of every available catalog title sold along with framed visual works. Overall, the day easily qualified as a win-win for all involved.
The second major offline event also took place in Savannah when I accepted an invitation to participate in a celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Moth storytelling organization. Founded by popular bestselling author George Dawes Green, the celebration coincided with the release of Green’s new novel: The Kingdoms of Savannah (presently an Amazon “Editor’s Pick” and sitting in the top 5 best sellers of 3 fiction categories).
What made the occasion especially momentous for me was that it marked my first time, in roughly 14 years, stepping onto a stage as a “raconteur.” Moth storytelling events have become major, and even legendary, cultural happenings wherever they take place, so it was thrilling to share the stage with fellow storytellers: Edgar Oliver, Jon Goode, Opollo Johnson, and Green himself. Further rounding out the evening were several musical performances, including by: internationally renowned jazz vocalist Cynthia Utterbach, Velvet Caravan co-founder Ricardo Ochoa, and virtuoso guitarist Travis Pullman.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.