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Contemporary Art Meets Contemporary Birdwatching: With Chloë Morter

Birdwatching, also known as birding, is a popular and rewarding pastime enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Whether you are an experienced birder or a curious beginner, birdwatching offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of our feathered friends. With just a pair of binoculars, a field guide, and a keen eye, you can explore the great outdoors and observe a diverse array of bird species in their natural habitats.

The origins of birdwatching can be traced back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when naturalists and scientists began to study birds in earnest. One of the earliest pioneers of birdwatching was John James Audubon, who spent years documenting the birds of North America in his famous book, "The Birds of America." Audubon's work helped to popularize birdwatching as a hobby and inspired many others to take up the pursuit.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, birdwatching became increasingly popular among amateur enthusiasts, and birdwatching clubs and societies began to form. One of the most notable early birdwatching societies was the British Trust for Ornithology, founded in 1932, which helped to coordinate and organize birdwatching activities throughout the UK. As birdwatching grew in popularity, so too did the development of new tools and techniques, such as the use of binoculars, spotting scopes, and bird calls.


Today, birdwatching continues to be a beloved pastime enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. With advances in technology and the widespread availability of field guides and other resources, birdwatching has become more accessible than ever before.


Contemporary birdwatching has evolved into a diverse and dynamic pursuit, with a wide range of motivations and audiences. For some, birdwatching is a way to connect with nature and escape the stresses of daily life. For others, it is a form of scientific observation and a way to participate in citizen science projects, helping to track the movements and populations of different bird species. But for many, birdwatching is simply a fun and rewarding hobby, offering opportunities for travel, socializing, and personal growth.

One notable change in modern birdwatching is the increased emphasis on conservation and environmental awareness. With many bird species facing threats such as habitat loss, climate change, and pollution, birdwatchers are increasingly using their hobby as a platform for activism and advocacy. Through activities such as citizen science projects and habitat restoration efforts, birdwatchers are playing an important role in protecting and preserving the natural world.


Another change in contemporary birdwatching is the growing diversity of participants. While birdwatching was once seen as a niche hobby for older, mostly white, middle-class participants, today's birdwatching community is more inclusive and welcoming than ever before. Efforts to make birdwatching more accessible and welcoming have included initiatives such as birding festivals that celebrate different cultures, the creation of mentorship programs for underrepresented groups, and the establishment of birdwatching clubs and organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Some notable initiatives include: the Black Birders Week movement, which began in 2020 in response to incidents of racism in the birdwatching community; the Audubon Society's Women in Conservation program, which provides mentorship, networking, and leadership development opportunities for women in the conservation field; and Birdability, a non-profit organization that advocates for greater accessibility and inclusivity in birdwatching for people with disabilities. As birdwatching becomes more inclusive, it not only benefits individuals but also promotes greater awareness and appreciation for the natural world among diverse communities.


Technological advances have also had a significant impact on modern birdwatching. Smartphone apps and social media platforms have made it easier than ever to share information and connect with other birdwatchers around the world. Digital cameras and audio recorders have revolutionized the way birders document and study bird behaviour, while GPS technology and online mapping tools have made it easier to track bird movements and plan birdwatching trips.


While the basic principles of birdwatching remain the same, contemporary birdwatching has evolved in many exciting and meaningful ways. With a growing emphasis on conservation, a more diverse community of participants, and new technological tools and resources, birdwatching continues to be a rich and rewarding pastime for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Birdwatching has long been a source of inspiration for artists across different mediums, including painting, sculpture, and photography. Many artists have been drawn to the beauty and diversity of bird species, as well as the complex behaviours and interactions that they exhibit in the wild.


One example of the crossover between birdwatching and visual arts is the work of John James Audubon, a renowned 19th-century naturalist and artist who is best known for his highly detailed and realistic paintings of birds. Audubon's work not only documented the appearance of different bird species, but also captured their unique personalities and behaviours in a way that had never been seen before. His paintings are still celebrated today for their scientific accuracy and artistic beauty.


In more recent years, birdwatching has also inspired contemporary artists to create works that explore the connections between humans and nature, as well as the impacts of environmental change. For example, artist Brandon Ballengée has created sculptures and installations that incorporate found objects and specimens, such as discarded plastic and taxidermied birds, to comment on issues such as pollution and habitat loss. Similarly, photographer Andrew Zuckerman's book "Bird" features stunning portraits of birds against stark white backgrounds, highlighting the intricate details and textures of each species.


Chloë Morter is a contemporary artist who has gained recognition for her intricate and detailed embroidery pieces that feature birds and other wildlife. As a birdwatcher herself, Morter draws inspiration from the unique personalities and behaviors of different bird species, which she translates into her stitched designs. Her works often feature small, delicate details such as feathers, eyes, and beaks, which require a great deal of skill and patience to create.


Morter's embroidery pieces are not only beautiful works of art, but also serve as a reminder of the importance of conservation and protecting the natural world. She has stated that her goal is to create pieces that encourage people to take notice of the birds and other wildlife around them, and to appreciate their unique beauty and value. Through her art, Morter is helping to bridge the gap between birdwatching and visual arts, and to inspire others to appreciate and protect the natural world in their own way.


You can discover Chloë's work at Artizan Gallery in their May 2023 "Natural World" showcase alongside works of landscape artist Kerry Johnstone. For more information, visit www.art-hub.co.uk/ex/cm23


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