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    In a Post-Audubon Era, Things Can Take a Nasty Tern

    Ralph Steadman, Walton Ford, and other artists conjure extinct bird species, real and imagined

    When John James Audubon attempted to chronicle the full array of ornithological life in the United States between 1827 and 1838, he logged in 497 species in his famous series, Birds of America. Since then, various creatures he depicted have disappeared: American Species including the Carolina Parakeet, the Passenger Pigeon, the Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, and the Pinnated Grouse, along with their international relatives like the Spectacled Cormorant from Bering Island, the Hawaiian O’o, and, notoriously, the Dodo.

    So it was useful to discover, at the recent New York Art Book Fair, an artist’s book by Billy O’Callaghan offering a “redacted” version of Audubon’s classic.

    Here for example is his rendering of the Esquimaux (Eskimo) Curlew.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 157 Eskimo Curlew [Esquimaux Curlew] Charadriiformes Scolopacidae Numenius borealis, 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    The Labrador Duck.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 157 Labrador Duck [Pied Duck] Anseriformes Anatidae Camptorhynchus labradorius, 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    And the Greater Prairie Chicken.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 124 Greater Prairie Chicken [Pinnated Grous] Galliformes Phasianidae Tympanuchus cupido, 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    O’Callaghan is one of a number of artists giving form to the ghosts in our post-Audubon skies.

    There’s Walton Ford, whose ecologically-minded images of creatures real and imaginary owe a debt to earlier naturalist illustrations (and whose cover for the new Rolling Stones album comes from his King Kong series). In Falling Bough, he visualized how Passenger Pigeons darkened the sky in the early Americas.

    Walton Ford, Falling Bough, 2002, watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil on paper.

    IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND PAUL KASMIN GALLERY.

    He gives a voiced to the doomed Carolina Parakeet.

    Walton Ford, Condemned, 2006, 6 copper plates, hardground etching, aquatint, spit bite aquatint, drypoint, scraping and burnishing on white Rives paper.

    IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND PAUL KASMIN GALLERY.

    The population of post-Audubon birds expanded when the organizers Ghosts of Gone Birds, a fundraising project for BirdLife International, raised a “creative army” to summon the ghosts of extinct birds in a variety of media.

    Harriet Mead imagined a King Island Emu, last seen in Australia in the early 1800s.

    Harriet Mead, King Island Emu, mixed media sculpture.

    GHOSTS OF GONE BIRDS, CREATED BY CHRIS ALDHOUS/GOODPILOT.

    British graphic artist Jamie Hewlett (creator of Tank Girl) depicted the Hawaiian Crow, one of the most critically endangered birds in the world.

    Jamie Hewlett, Hawaiian Crow, watercolor.

    GHOSTS OF GONE BIRDS, CREATED BY CHRIS ALDHOUS/GOODPILOT.

    Ralph Steadman took the project further than anticipated, going on to produce an entire book of Extinct Boids.

    The Dodo, the flightless bird extinct by the 17th century.

    Ralph Steadman, Dodo, 2011.

    COPYRIGHT 2012 BY RALPH STEADMAN. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF BLOOMSBURY.

    The St. Helena Giant Hoopoe, from the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic.

    Ralph Steadman, St. Helena Giant Hoopoe, 2011.

    COPYRIGHT 2012 BY RALPH STEADMAN. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF BLOOMSBURY.

    The Red Rail, another flightless bird from the home of the Dodo, the island of Mauritius.

    Ralph Steadman, Red Rail, 2011.

    COPYRIGHT 2012 BY RALPH STEADMAN. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF BLOOMSBURY.

    Not a dead bird, but a good pun: The Nasty Tern.

    Ralph Steadman, Nasty Tern, 2011.

    COPYRIGHT 2012 BY RALPH STEADMAN. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF BLOOMSBURY.

    Brian R. Williams goes more anthropomorphic with the late lamented Great Auk, a penguin-like bird found in the North Atlantic.

    Brian R. Williams, Great Auk, 1844, 2012, graphite on bristol.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    Even as mankind spurs the demise of feathered creatures, its impulse to identify and connect with them has generated some curious new hybrid species. Some of the birds that have appeared in our post-Audubon world are helpfully documented by O’Callaghan in a supplement to his book.

    There’s Big Bird (who seemed himself endangered during the election).

    Billy O’Callaghan, 157 Costumed Personalities [Public TV Stars for Kids], 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    Ornithologically inspired corporate identities.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 509 Corporate Identities [Corporate Marketing: Adults], 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    Sports mascots.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 510 Sports Mascots [& Team Logos], 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

    Finally, there are Peeps.

    Billy O’Callaghan, 512 Marshmallow Candy [Non-chocolate Easter Treats], 2012.

    COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

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