Birds as Center of Contrasting Styles (November 2011)

1 November 2011

By Chelsea Kellner

A pair of four-eyed beauties in Japanese robes float across blue sky on the backs of two white cranes in flight. It’s a stylized painting, surreal, like something seen in a dream.

On another wall, there’s a black-capped chickadee on a painted abstract perch, so lifelike it looks ready to chirp and fly away.

Two artists offer their vision of birds at this month’s First Friday event at Adam Cave Fine Art downtown. Raleigh-based Tisha Weddington paints symbolic canvases of birds and women designed to be interpreted by the viewer. Byron Gin’s birds are so detailed they look like photographs, set against playful splashes of abstract color.

“Byron is playing off of documentation,” Cave said. “Tisha is playing off of the mythological element birds bring. But they’re both always exploring in their paintings.”

In Weddington’s art, animals are often used to bring masculine energy to her paintings, Cave said, which often center around a female figure.

Her birds can also serve that purpose, but just as often they are light, flitting or perched gently on an outstretched hand.

“I love for people to come up with their own stories, to narrate my images as they wish,” Weddington said.

Weddington is inspired by Japanese prints, bullfighting posters, old circus prints. She doesn’t have her own stories for the paintings. She works intuitively, with layers of drawing and paint.

“We all bring baggage to everything we see,” Cave said. “When a painter works in a simpler, more stylized style as Tisha’s doing, we’re able to read more into it.”

Gin, who is based in Chicago, has degrees in both art and environmental science and says he gathers inspiration from day-to-day life – like the birds on his backyard feeder.

Viewers have a strong response to paintings that incorporate birds, Cave said. There’s precedent for that in art history. From Renaissance art to the peace movement, doves and other birds have strong symbolic meaning.

There’s also a spiritual element – the Bible features doves, ravens and other birds playing key roles in important events from the Great Flood to the blessing of Jesus. In Native American tradition, an eagle or other bird can serve as one’s spirit animal.

Plus there’s the frenetic energy associated with birds that brings a sense of movement to any painting, Cave said.

“It gives the viewer the sense that, if the artist has frozen the moment, it’s only for a fraction of a second, because birds don’t stand still,” Cave said. “That brings a sense of life to the canvas.”


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