Avifauna: Birds + Habitat
Glyndor Gallery | April 7–June 24, 2018
Pictured above: Paula McCartney, from left: American Goldfinches, Barn Swallows, Aqua Tanager, Tropic Warblers, all from the “Bird Watching” series, 2004–2008, chromogenic print, matted with archival paper label in wood frame, 28 x 23 inches, courtesy of the artist. Photo: Stefan Hagen.
Paula McCartney creates idealized landscapes through photography. For her “Bird Watching” series, she photographs craft-store songbirds in natural settings to create a novel environmental experience that questions what is real and what is fabricated. She further conflates fact and fiction by including, with each piece, her version of a scientific label and wooden frame typically displayed in a natural history museum. In McCartney’s constructed narrative, birds seem to be readily available and easy to view, which is contrary to the actual speed and distance one observes while birding. By presenting them as jewels within a landscape tableau, McCartney plays on the bird watcher and birder’s yearning to view these creatures in their natural habitat.
In some cases, such as the barn swallows, McCartney matches the birds to the Sibley Guide to Birds. The titles Aqua Tanager and Tropic Warblers, however, are fabricated to correspond with their name and/or geographic location. Exploring the dichotomy between natural and human-made environments, McCartney invites the viewer to examine and reexamine the specimen on view. Presenting the work in this context, she notes “it is important, essential even, for there to be places like Wave Hill to foster an appreciation and respect for the natural world.”
McCartney received a Certificate in Photography from the International Center of Photography, New York; a BFA from Empire State College, New York; and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with recent solo museum shows at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Her work is held in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Minneapolis Institute of Arts, among others.
Pictured above: Paula McCartney, American Goldfinches, from the “Bird Watching” series, 2008 (detail), chromogenic print, matted with archival paper label in wood frame, edition 4/7, 28 x 23 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Pictured above: Paula McCartney, Tropic Warblers, from the “Bird Watching” series, 2008 (detail), chromogenic print, matted with archival paper label in wood frame, edition 1/7, 28 x 23 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Pictured above: Installation view, Avifauna: Birds + Habitat (from left): Paula McCartney,American Goldfinches, Barn Swallows, Aqua Tanager, Tropic Warblers, all from the “Bird Watching” series, 2004–2008; Tatiana Arocha, Baile de Espeletias, 2016, courtesy of the artists. Photo: Stefan Hagen.
Click here to learn more about the artist.
An exhibition catalogue published on the occasion of Avifauna: Birds + Habitat is available here.
Support for the Visual Arts Program is provided by Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.