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
INTRO: Unexpected encounters with manifestations of the angelic kind tend to be recurring themes in some of my creative productions because of their repeated occurrences in my actual life. The following example is taken from the texts of two recent posts of artwork at Pixels.com and Fine Art America:
Portrait of the Artist at Work
An interesting funny thing happened after I delivered 3 pieces of artwork to the Savannah/Hilton Head Airport Art Gallery for an exhibition curated by the Savannah Art Association in early October (now on exhibit until January 7, 2022). I was crossing the busy terminal street where drivers dropped off and picked up travelers, then waiting for my own ride, when I noticed something for the first time.
Further ahead, some yards away from the taxi stand waiting area, was a giant round planter filled with colorful flowers and, at its center, a gushing fountain with an angel on top. Above its head, the angel held a globe with small airplanes circling it. I was approaching the fountain from the back so did not experience the full impact of its beauty until slowly circling around to its front.
That I had been unaware of this structure until that moment seemed impossible. But it was true, so I took as many photographs as I could before my transportation arrived.
As they do in cities like Rome, Paris, and Singapore, beautifully-designed fountains make up an important part of the appeal of Savannah (Georgia, USA). Different styles and sizes can be found in various squares and major public parks. The most famous is the Forsyth Park Fountain (images of which can be found in my FAA Savannah Collection). The angel on top of this one caught my attention in particular because angels inspired an entire book of my poetry (The River of Winged Dreams) and several pieces of my visual art as well.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.