About the Exhibition

Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks features paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and natural history specimens from the early 19th century through the present day. Beyond merely connecting us to the natural world, the artworks in this exhibition remind us of the toll taken on bird habitats since the beginning of European colonialism in North America; the delicate ecosystems that allow birds of all species to thrive came under attack, as birds were hunted for food and ornamentation and their habitats were destroyed.

Curated by Museum Director Carey Weber and Fairfield University Biology professors Brian Walker, PhD, Jim Biardi, PhD, and Tod Osier, PhD, the exhibition complements the installation on Fairfield’s campus of The Lost Bird Project by artist Todd McGrain. These monumental sculptures, created as public memorials to North American birds driven to extinction in modern times, present a chronicle of humankind's impact on our changing world and a moving record of dwindling biodiversity (on view from October 2020 to August 2021).

The “lost birds” section of Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks features studies for McGrain’s sculptures, a Great Auk skeleton lent by the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, and paintings of lost birds by contemporary artists including Walton Ford, Ann Craven, James Prosek, Morgan Bulkeley, and Alberto Rey. The “living birds” section of the exhibition includes specimens of a variety of common, local birds, also coming from the Peabody. Highlights include Marsden Hartley’s Give Us This Day and Matthew Day Jackson’s portfolio There Will Come Soft Rains, which draws from numerous sources - including old Audubon copper plates - to explore both preservation and apocalyptic destruction. Additional artworks include works by Alexander Wilson, John Gould, Emily Eveleth, James Prosek, Rick Shaefer, Carolyn Blackwood, Christy Rupp, Christina Empedocles, and Paul Villinski.

Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks celebrates local birds that we know well and continue to enjoy, while being reminded that worldwide, over 150 bird species have already been driven to extinction, and an estimated 1,200 more are estimated to follow over the next century if action is not taken. This unique interdisciplinary exhibition demonstrates the ways in which art and science can join forces to raise awareness not only of the importance of saving bird habitats, but the preservation of our broader natural environment. The museum is proud to partner with the Pequot Library, the Fairfield chapter of CT Audubon, and the Greenwich Audubon Center in presenting the programming for this exhibition.

Background Image: Ann Craven (American, b. 1972), Passenger Pigeons, Again (Extinct, after Audubon), 2019, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Southard Reid, London

 

Publications

Exhibition Catalog

Featuring an introductory essay by Brian Walker, PhD

Birds of Fairfield

A guide to campus birds created by student Anne Panos '22, using a list compiled by Tod Osier, PhD

Birds of Fairfield Playlist

 

Experience the Exhibition

Browse Selected Artworks

1 / 10
London Wild Turkey
2 / 10
Give Us This Day
3 / 10
Heron in Flight
4 / 10
Auk Egg
5 / 10
Wood Duck
6 / 10
There Will Come Soft Rains
7 / 10
Threatened Swan (after Jan Asselijn)
8 / 10
Labrador Duck
9 / 10
Passenger Pigeons, Again (Extinct, after Audubon)
10 / 10
Cardinal, After Cattelan

 

<strong>Alexander Wilson</strong>, W.H. Lizars, engraver, Whittaker, Treacher & Arnot, publisher, <br /><em>American Ornithology; or The Natural History of the Birds of the United States</em>, published 1832,<br /> <em>London Wild Turkey, Male and Female (Meleagris gallopavo)</em>, engraving with original hand coloring.<br /> Lent by the Pequot Library, Southport, CT accession no. 2054, Gift of Mrs. Elbert B. Monroe. <br />Image courtesy of Special Collections, Pequot Library
<strong>Marsden Hartley</strong>, <em>Give Us This Day</em>, 1938, oil on canvas. <br />Lent by Art Bridges
<strong>Stephen Pace</strong>, <em>Untitled [Heron in Flight]</em>, 1991, ink on paper.<br /> Fairfield University Art Museum, Gift of the Stephen and Palmina Pace Foundation (2020.06.06)
<strong>Todd McGrain</strong>, <em>Auk Egg</em>, n.d., photograph.<br /> Lent by the artist
<strong>James Prosek</strong>, <em>Wood Duck</em>, 2014, oil on canvas. <br />Lent by the artist, and Waqas Wahat
<strong>Matthew Day Jackson</strong>, <em>There Will Come Soft Rains</em>, 2015-16, portfolio of 12 four-color, four-plate etchings with colophon, edition: 36 (8/36).<br /> Printed by Christopher Creyts, published by Collaborative Art Editions, St. Petersburg, FL. <br />Lent by Jordan D. Schnitzer. © Matthew Day Jackson, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth
<strong>Christy Rupp</strong>, <em>Threatened Swan (after Jan Asselijn)</em>, 2017, plastic filament, welded metal.<br /> Lent by Joshua Rechnitz, © Christy Rupp
<strong>Alberto Rey</strong>, <em>Labrador Duck</em>, 2017, oil on panel. <br />Lent by the artist
<strong>Ann Craven</strong>, <em>Passenger Pigeons, Again (Extinct, after Audubon)</em>, 2019, 2019, oil on canvas.<br />Lent by the artist, courtesy of Southard Reid, London
<strong>Emily Eveleth</strong>, <em>Cardinal, After Cattelan</em>, 2020, oil on mylar. <br />Lent by the artist, courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, NY. ©Emily Eveleth

 

Audioguide: Selected Works

 

Learn

All events will be livestreamed at thequicklive.com. Click below to register for reminders.

REGISTER

 

Virtual Opening Night Lecture: Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks

Brian Walker, Professor of Biology

Thursday, January 21, 6 p.m.
Presented in partnership with the Department of Biology

Virtual Lecture: Marsden Hartley, Painter of Birds

Jonathan Weinberg, Artist and Professor, Yale University School of Art and Rhode Island School of Design

Wednesday, February 10, 6 p.m.
Part of the Edwin L. Weisl, Jr. Lectureships in Art History, funded by the Robert Lehman Foundation

Art in Focus: Walton Ford, Dying Words, 2005, etching

Michelle DiMarzo, Curator of Education and Academic Engagement

Thursday, February 18, 11 a.m.

Virtual Lecture: Birding While Black

J. Drew Lanham, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist, Clemson University

Tuesday, March 2, 5 p.m.
Presented in partnership with the Department of Biology

Virtual Workshop: Learn How to Draw a Bird

Suzanne Chamlin, Associate Professor of Studio Art, Department of Visual & Performing Arts

Tuesday, March 9, 5 p.m.

Virtual Lecture: Nature’s Best Hope

Douglas Tallamy, Professor Entomology, University of Delaware

Tuesday, March 23, 4 p.m.
Presented in partnership with the Department of Biology

Virtual Lecture: Rara avis: John James Audubon: Artist, Naturalist, and Early Conservationist

Roberta Olson, Curator, New-York Historical Society; Professor of Art History Emerita, Wheaton College

Wednesday, April 14, 5 p.m.
Part of the Edwin L. Weisl, Jr. Lectureships in Art History, funded by the Robert Lehman Foundation

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