BIRDS OF THE WEST AND OTHER PLACES:
BEYOND AUDUBON, The Watercolors of JEFFREY LONG
Paperback, 31 pages
Joseph Martin Burke
In his project, Birds of America, John James Audubon never traveled west of the continent’s mid
point. Late in life he got as far as the Missouri River country in the Dakota Territory. He was
unable to observe birds in their far western habitats.
Jeffrey Long seeks to address the omission and more. Bringing a Twenty first-Century
perspective to the subject, Long inhabits a world in which nature has eroded to a degree
unimagined in Audubon’s era. Only beginning to gain momentum in the 19th-Century, the
unremitting onslaught of the human population explosion has continued to escalate through
our own time. By now, many of its effects are irreversible.
While it is an artistic and scientific document, Audubon’s project is also political. So too is
Long’s project. Audubon’s birds are emblems of a new nation of vast promise, a continent still
perceived by newly arrived settlers as a boundless Eden ripe for transformation into an agrarian
paradise. Long’s painting serve up the back story – the twists and turns of human history and
environmental degradation which have impacted the species.
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