Why Nests?

January 16th, 2011

Hope Entwined III 48" x 12" acrylic on board represents the nest of a common yellow throat with artifacts from several Peruvian cultures entwined in the twigs and feathers. The blue morpho butterfly above might have fluttered in the rainforest near the bird as it migrated south.

People often ask me why I paint nests. There are so many reasons.

One is simply that I find them to be quite beautiful and fascinating. The fact that they are created by tiny creatures with no opposing thumbs is astonishing. A friend of mine is a biology professor. For class one day she heaped the lab tables with twigs, grasses and bits of string. She had her students build nests using only one hand. Try it! You will gain a new respect for those little feathered  creatures that you see in the air.

Another reason is the visual beauty of the nests. Grasses, leaves, branches, ribbon, even shredded blue tarp create a lovely visual cacophony when woven together that is challenging to re-create on canvas.

Enhanced fiberglass sculpture. I added the wings, bird and nest to a pre-fab form.

And REALLY challenging to build with clay or fiberglass- I keep trying! Here’s Bird Dog- from my participation in our annual fund raiser for the local artists guild. I added the stick in his mouth and the bird and nest. Fun, but tricky.

Another obvious reason is that nests represent nurturing and safety. Home.

Additionally they represent a global connectivity that may not be obvious to all. In the northern forests of my backyard, tiny ovenbirds build their nests on the ground, hidden deep in last year’s leaves.  Down the hill in the marsh, the elusive common yellowthroat tucks its tiny woven home into reeds and red osier dogwood. These birds fly south for the winter- some as far as Bolivia or Peru, thus directly connecting us with their migratory trajectory.

For millennia and more these birds have watched human cultures rise and fall. The Maya, and Aztec in Mexico, San Agustín in Colombia, Cahokia in Missouri: cultures which have built cities and then all but vanished… but still the birds continue to fly.

That’s why I include the cultural details. In  Hope Entwined III on the left you see huayruro beads from the Amazon basin  and a woven condor pattern on a belt from Pre-Incan Paracas culture on the coast of Peru. These objects  are symbolic of human continuity, and human artistry. I choose objects that I personally find beautiful to represent the various cultures.

I was very lucky as a child to have parents who dragged me and my five siblings all over the western hemisphere.

Working with a group of students we created a human sized nest. That's me curled up in the rather uncomfortable center.

We lived in Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia Uruguay and Paraguay, so this is not an intellectual abstract exercise for me. It’s very personal.  My father was an engineer who wanted to make the world a better place through technology.

I just want to connect it through art.

4 Responses to “Why Nests?”

  1. Lynn Bridge says:

    I love this blog entry. I love the natural world, am fascinated and awed by birds, and love the fact of history/prehistory. And connection- you connect all these loves into your artwork. How satisfying and meaningful!

  2. […] Why Nests? « Art of the Natural World. […]

  3. Patty says:

    So glad you’re blogging again, it’s wonderful to know the thinking behind your beautiful work.

  4. Kadira says:

    Nest have fascinated me in recent years, I actually collect them. I think the intrinsic beauty and amazing artistry in so many of them are- incredible creations. To me they are a testament to the inner drive to create, not limited to humans alone but also found in the animal kingdom.

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