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Festival of the Arts

Our signature end-of-summer celebration of the arts returns!

Diana Majumdar

I was initiated to bird watching by my younger son’s natural interests in birds. He had asked for binoculars and book about birds on his 6th birthday. Soon after that, he and I were going on hikes armed with bird watching equipment and camera.  Appreciation of birds offers me the potential moments of beauty and an inspiration. Watching birds on our walks led me to doing sketches and taking photos.
I was already experimenting with different media in my art, such as collage, chine cholle and encaustics. Birds became an essential element of my work. I am more interested in the birds that we see where we live:  in a tree in the parking lot, or someone’s barn. Estuaries, reservoirs and wetland are places to look for birds, but we often take for granted the wealth of birdlife on our own doorsteps.  As the urban and suburban areas keep growing replacing the natural habitat some disappear but some choose to stay and become part of our lives. The artificial concrete and steel ecosystems of cities support a surprisingly large number of birds.

In the series I am exploring the connections between humans and birds: nest that was build on the telephone pole or sparrows in the barn. I use variety of techniques and materials. I start out with an image or two that I like such as piece of wallpaper or a page from magazine. In ‘City Living’ there is a juxtaposition of two homes: the building made by and for humans and in front of its windows there is a tree branch that has a home built by birds. I often incorporate found materials. In ‘Spring Leaves’ I used materials taken from the construction site: Masonite board that was used as the floor protector and had wet concrete splashed onto; texture was achieved by applying leftover stucco material that was used for the house surface. I combined these materials as a surface and a base for a different kind of home: a bird nest built on the branches with the spring’s first leaves. It symbolizes the fresh beginning but also the old. I use wax to fuse all the materials and layers together and achieve deep complex surface. Birds are all around us. We live together. My works are inspired by their beauty and our coexistence.

Mixed media approach allows me to practice all forms of art that I came to love. I feel fortunate that I don’t have to narrow my choices and specialize in one thing such as oil landscape or portraiture. Instead not only I am able to combine various mediums within one piece (for example using watercolors and Tombo pens on paper in one work), I can also combine work executed in different mediums by layering them: graphite drawing of the trees done in traditional style can be followed by a mono print done using standard printing technique which can be sealed in wax and the realistic bird/birds can be painted on top in oil. Each of these separate parts are traditional works but combining them is way more fun than leaving them as is on their own. The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes I start knowing exactly what the goal is, sometimes I just start with one object that caught my eye. It can be piece of fabric such as in ‘Red and Brown’, or wallpaper sample that is the perfect shade of green or a poster for a movie. Sometimes I come across an interesting composition and striking color like in ‘Back Door’. Sometimes I remember a beautiful sight of red-winged blackbirds sitting on branches while hiking at Laguna de Santa Rosa. The image stays with me and I’ll start working from the impression that stayed with me. Each piece is a process and a journey where I let things happen and surprises await.