The Unfeathered Bird – A review in three parts

Skulls of Galapagos Finches by Katrina von Grouw - The Unfeathered Bird (2012 Princeton University Press - Used with Permission)
Skulls of Galapagos Finches by Katrina von Grouw – The Unfeathered Bird (2012 Princeton University Press – Used with Permission)

Katrina van Grouw‘s The Unfeathered Bird is a complicated book that combines elegant writing, copious information, and beautiful illustrations with bird anatomy. There may only be one person on earth prepared to handle all of that on her own. She wrote the book. And, it took her over 25 years.

We don’t have anyone that can cope with The Unfeathered Bird on their own. That’s ok. A multifaceted book should get a multifaceted review. So, we created a dream team of reviewers: artist Michele Banks focused on the artistry, Rebecca Heiss (PhD in avian physiology) focused on the avian physiology information, and Josh, me, focused. . .well it is not entirely clear what I focused on, like usual.

Michele Banks: The Art of The Unfeathered Bird
Rebecca Heiss: The Birds of The Unfeathered Bird
Josh Witten: The Layers of The Unfeathered Bird

The Art of “The Unfeathered Bird”

Skeleton of a Great Hornbill by Katrina von Grouw - The Unfeathered Bird (2012 Princeton University Press - Used with Permission)
Skeleton of a Great Hornbill by Katrina von Grouw – The Unfeathered Bird (2012 Princeton University Press – Used with Permission)

Katrina van Grouw’s The Unfeathered Bird is curious hybrid – not a textbook, not quite an art book. Forget definitions, it is a rich and beautiful work with many rewards for readers.

I approached this book as a visual artist and a decidedly non-expert reader, and I will admit an initial bias against it. I love color. I was convinced that a coffee-table book of birds drawn without their feathers was like a book on ice cream that featured only the cones.

I was wrong. Continue reading “The Art of “The Unfeathered Bird””

The Birds of “The Unfeathered Bird”

Rebecca earned her master’s degree with a focus in avian ecology at Binghamton University, worked at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, has conducted international research on birds overseas, and completed her PhD in avian physiology the University of Memphis. She now teaches biology at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Math.

After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well. – Albert Einstein

Birdsketch by Rebecca Heiss (All Rights Reserved)I became a biologist for a reason. It was not that I was particularly good at the sciences, but that I was terrible at art. My stick figures were never going to pay the rent. Perhaps lacking the drive to master any one trade, I’ve dabbled, becoming proficient in a smattering of largely scientific endeavors. It is little wonder then, that Katrina van Grouw’s mastery of multiple fields makes me feel a twinge of jealousy. Continue reading “The Birds of “The Unfeathered Bird””

The Art of Science: The Bloody Brilliance of Jordan Eagles

Life Force, 2012
Life Force, 2012

I get no kick from old bones
Nails, skin and hair
No, I really don’t care
Just give me that trickle, that flood
‘Cause I get a kick out of blood.

OK, so maybe that’s not quite how that song goes.  I was inspired by bravura bloodwork of this week’s Art of Science pick, Jordan Eagles. Continue reading “The Art of Science: The Bloody Brilliance of Jordan Eagles”

The Art of Science: Three to See

Pass it On by Jessica Beels at Strathmore Hall
Pass it On by Jessica Beels at Strathmore Hall

There’s too much great science-art happening right now to pick just one thing. If you’re anywhere near Montreal, Dublin, or DC in the next few weeks, don’t miss the chance to go see some amazing work. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Three to See”

%d bloggers like this: