A public garden & cultural center

Tanya Chaly

Avifauna: Birds + Habitat
Glyndor Gallery |
April 7–June 24, 2018

Pictured above: Installation view, Avifauna: Birds + Habitat (from left): Tanya Chaly, Nature’s Syntax, 2018 and The Future is History I and II, 2018, courtesy of the artist. Photo: Stefan Hagen.

Tanya Chaly examines ideas of the natural world and the history of natural science in an attempt to understand the relationships between ecosystems at both the macro and micro level. She theorizes that birds are “historical bio-indicators of changes to both the environment and climate.” In her installations of new work created for this exhibition, The Future is History I and II and Nature’s Syntax, Chaly renders each bird in graphite and colored pencil on parchment. Each bird is isolated within the frame and delicately surrounded with a design punctured into the parchment. These designs are not solely decorative motifs. Rather, they represent ecosystem networks, food webs, migration patterns and habitat fragmentation maps, all drawn from current scientific documents.

In Nature’s Syntax, Chaly chooses subjects which also appear in the historical record of bird sightings at Wave Hill used to indicate fluctuations and trends in migratory bird populations. Set within a Victorian-style specimen frame under convex glass, this series also features some birds in this series that are “from other parts of the globe which are affected by habitat loss, agriculture, urbanization,” like the Guam Kingfisher from the US Territory of Guam in Micronesia, now extinct in the wild.

Chaly draws inspiration for The Future is History I and II from naturalist Eugene Bicknell, one of the first naturalists who studied the changes and variety of the bird life in Riverdale and the Bronx. Bicknell was the first to make consistent records and indices of rare bird sightings. He also discovered the Bicknell’s Thrush. Chaly states “I chose this bird to start with for this reason and then discovered as I researched more that it has a rare status as a range-restricted bird and has recently been classified as globally vulnerable. (It is considered a Nearctic–Neotropical migrant and habitat specialist, which gives it a status of high concern).”

Tanya Chaly received a BFA and completed postgraduate studies in painting at the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts in Sydney, Australia. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Art History at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France, where she taught at the École Média Art, in Chalon-sur-Saône. Chaly lives in New York.


Pictured above: Tanya Chaly, Nature’s Syntax, 2018, graphite, colored pencil and punctured drawing on parchment under convex glass, 9 pieces: 10 ¼ x 14 ¼ inches each, 54 x 54 inches installed, courtesy of the artist. Photo: Stefan Hagen


Pictured above: Tanya Chaly, The Future is History I and II, 2018, graphite, colored pencil and punctured drawing on parchment, diptych: 26 3/4 x 18 7/8 inches each, courtesy of the artist. Photo: Stefan Hagen

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An exhibition catalogue published on the occasion of Avifauna: Birds + Habitat is available here.

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; 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 Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.