A Colossal Mural Chronicles 375 Million Years of Bird Evolution
February 3, 2019 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Artist Jane Kim painted a 2,500 square-foot “Wall of Birds” mural at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. Now a new book from Harper Design, called The Wall of Birds, chronicles its creation. Kim describes the breadth of the project in the publication: Nothing quite like this had ever been done: a mural depicting all 243 modern families of living birds, five modern families that had gone extinct by human hand within the last thirty thousand years, twenty-one prehistoric ancestors, and a ten-foot caiman to remind people of the mind-bending reality that the crocodile family is more closely related to birds than it is to other reptiles.
posted by bq (14 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2019

posted by Splunge at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2019

Wow. I last visited the Lab of Ornithology in 1974 when it was a shack in the woods. Now look at it. I'm thinking a trip to Ithaca should go on the bucket list.
posted by beagle at 9:55 AM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Holy cow! I last visited the Lab (I was a Natural Resources major at Cornell) in the late 90s and I definitely remember it more like "shack in the woods" -- though with a very cool soundproof room for listening to bird recordings, some of which exist nowhere else -- and less "giant gleaming building." I was trying to figure out where the mural described in the article could possibly have fit into my memory, and now it makes a lot more sense.
posted by misskaz at 10:50 AM on February 3, 2019

Strong recommendation for the 8:00 video about the making of the mural linked in the article. Awesome.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:58 AM on February 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

wow that is really beautiful. I did not know that about crocs...
posted by supermedusa at 11:18 AM on February 3, 2019

This is wonderful!
posted by ellieBOA at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2019

If you’re on social media I can’t recommend Jane Kim’s Instagram highly enough! Lots of closeups of the mural, process photos and videos, and tantalizing images of new projects.
posted by stellaluna at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

ok I am totally out of practice with my painting but I need to get some of those amazing water-filled marker-brushes! so cool
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:28 PM on February 3, 2019

that's amazing. thanks for the post! I will totally visit this!
posted by bluesky43 at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2019

This is something to gaze upon with delight. And every time one looks at it, there's a different thing to catch the eye.
posted by mightshould at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wonderful, but... an odd place to present it.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:42 PM on February 3, 2019

Wonderful, but... an odd place to present it.

But it's on a wall at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology aka where bird people flock to. That's a pretty good place to present it IMO.
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:34 PM on February 3, 2019

Taking care to ensure that the mural balanced the male/female ratio in the illustrations -- rather than filling it up with the showier, gaudier male plummages -- represents to me a truly special instance of artistic foresight.

And I say that somewhat of a birding geek, having been rather excited to discover that a particularly stunning duck I spotted was a female ring-necked duck. In the right light, you've never seen quite as many subtle, nuanced tones of grey as that duck has -- to me, it's far more impressive than the male ring-necked duck (though he's handsome, for sure).

Took my son (also fascinated by birds) to see the lab a few years back, and I remember fondly that mural. Will plan another visit, now knowing more of its origins.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 2:25 PM on February 4, 2019

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