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Chris Bacon
"Long-billed Curlew," 1998, by Chris Bacon

HUMANS, NATURE, AND BIRDS: SCIENCE ART FROM CAVE WALLS TO COMPUTER SCREENS, by Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy, Yale University Press, 240 pages, 75 color illustrations, $37.50

The authors' artifice in "Humans, Nature, and Birds" is a two-floor virtual gallery with 60-plus images of birds as they have been painted, sculpted or photographed throughout history.

The authors, Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy, refer to these genre pieces as "Science Art": art that says something about the natural world and how it works.

Whereas much of this book's art would be considered kitsch if judged on its own merits, Wheye and Kennedy reveal how these works advance our understanding of the ways nature has been perceived over time, its current vulnerability and our responsibility to preserve its wealth.

In the authors' gallery, each room is dedicated to a single topic. The rooms on the first floor show birds as icons, birds as resources, birds as teaching tools and more. On the second floor, the images and their captions clarify what "Science Art" is, and how the intertwining of art and science can change the way we look at each.

Wheye and Kennedy also provide a timeline linking scientific innovations with the production of bird images, as well as offering a checklist of steps to promote the creation and accessibility of Science Art.

After touring this virtual, two-tiered gallery, you will never look at art depicting nature the same way again.

Local readers will be interested in the authors' use of Salt Lake artist Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen's painting, "Two Stories — Common Nighthawk." Typical of the artist's tightly rendered paintings, this piece, the authors tell us, shows "Nighthawks are opportunistic birds who adapted well to urban sites and became common in cities after the mid-1980s."

From pre-historic depictions of owls in Chauvet Cave, France, to the 2005 watercolor of Bushtits by Wheye, "Humans, Nature, and Birds" is informative and stimulating, a must-read book for any who have derided bird art in the past. It will change your thinking.


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