spotted wren perches on the limb of a pine tree in a field of daisies.
A song sparrow stands ready to take flight from a snow-covered limb
against a winter landscape. For many, these descriptions depict
quintessential experiences of nature. As photographs in a bird-watcher
s field journal they become something else entirely. Precious and
desirable for being so rare, they transform into a kind of trophy that
rewards the birdwatcher for his or her skill, tireless patience, and
mastery over nature.
| At first glance,
conceptual artist Paula McCartney's Bird Watching
seems to be a most exemplary specimen of a birdwatching journal.
Handwritten notations recording species, location,
size, and markings describe well-rendered and flawlessly composed
photographs of a wide variety of passerines, or perching birds, in
their natural settings in locations across the United States. Page
after page of the most wonderfully diverse species of birds are
perfectly posed in picturesque natural settings -- a bird-watcher's
On second glance, however, the birds appear a bit too carefully
arranged amid the tangle of brush and branches. An even closer look
reveals stiff wire protrusions mounting each bird to its perch, matted
tufts of overdyed faux feathers forming wings and splashes of paint
creating eyes and beaks. McCartney has activated her atmospheric
landscapes by adding synthetic decorative birds purchased at craft
stores. This startling revelation has you wondering if the artificial
might ultimately be more satisfying than the natural.
Part document and part fiction, Paula McCartney's Bird Watching
is a fanciful, homespun field guide to a woodland twilight zone where
our unconscious need to control nature is indulged and our search for
an unattainable ideal natural experience is fulfilled. Featuring a
design that mimics the tactility of a real bird-watching journal and
including essays by Darius Himes and Karen Irvine, this book will
appeal to the dreamy naturalist in all of us.
by Paula McCartney
Princeton Architectural Press,