By the time photographer Rosalie Winard graduated from college, she was known as "The Pelican Lady" for her exhaustive study of the threat and greeting display of pelicans during breeding season and for teaching others about bird life.

Sandhill Crane
"Sandhill Crane," Iris photographic print, by Terry Evans

By the time photographer Rosalie Winard graduated from college, she was known as "The Pelican Lady" for her exhaustive study of the threat and greeting display of pelicans during breeding season and for teaching others about bird life.

"That is where I first fell in love with pelicans," Winnard said.

Today's her intimate portraits of birds, in an ethereal palette of white, gray, and black, are a big part of "Winged Shadows: Life Among Birds," the latest exhibit at North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks.

The exhibit features about 10 pieces from NDMOA's permanent collection, including ones by Barton Benes and Matt Anderson, said Sue Fink of North Dakota Museum of Art. The exhibit of paintings, photographs, prints, video, and electronic media also features artists such as Winard and Erika Lincoln, both of who were in Grand Forks for the exhibit's recent opening.

The photographs in this exhibit are a breathtaking study of some of the country's most beautiful birds - the great blue heron, white ibis and a particular snowy egret (by Winard) with an Albert Einstein-like head of fluffy white fringe set off by a vicious stiletto shaped beak.


There's the stillness of Barbara Brossart's photos, such as "Emily with Grackle," of a pretty young woman wearing baggy pants and a t-shirt, looking straight into the camera, with a bird perched on her hand, and standing in front of a natural wall of green plants.

There's a sense of turnabout-is-fair-play in "Tale of Johnny Nutkin" by Walton Ford, a colorful and detailed work of a group of squirrels who seem to menacing a great winking owl.

Fink, who gives tours of the exhibit, says many of the pieces speak to both the fragility and the strength of nature and of birds. There's the theme of what man is doing to the environment and how that force may be turning back on us. The latter is a slightly alarming notion, combined with the paintings of David Kruger that depict sharp-eyed birds who hold men in their beaks.

Winard's part of the exhibit shows her photographs in light boxes, pigment prints on canvas and banners hung high that move slightly in the air currents. Her college-years' study of birds and natural history led to work in documentary filmmaking and as a photo journalist, as well as years of photographing one of her students, a man with autism. She got to know and work with Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.

For more than a decade, Winard has traveled the country by foot, canoe, airboat, and ATV, taking pictures of large birds of the wetlands from Florida to California, Louisiana to North Dakota. (At Chase Lake, Medina, N.D., she helped band birds.)

In 2008, her book "Wild Birds of the American Wetlands" was published," and some of the images in the NDMOA exhibit are from that book.

Winard said one of the comments about her work that pleased her most was the critic who said that she takes pictures of birds the way most people take photos of close family members.

"My favorite people who love my work are people who usually don't like or care about birds," Winard said. "There a lot that goes on within various environmental movements that gets heavy handed. I think people fall in love by seeing my work. My main goal is to inspire people and, through that inspiration, then people begin to want to protect the birds, the environment that they live in."


Erika Lincoln

Canadian Erika Lincoln is an electronic media artist working in kinetic sculpture and responsive installation. One of the "don't miss" pieces of "Winged Shadows" is her three-dimensional "Relaional Transmission," which examines birds that use human built structures as nesting sites, in particular communication towers and lines.

Lincoln's work is a 15-foot aluminum tower with a huge "nest" made of plastic. The structure is linked via audio speakers to a computer that uses Max/MSP software to generate birdcalls from a database of urban sounds. The resulting sounds are like birds singing and chirping.

Upstairs she has two groupings, "Singing Condition I" and "Singing Condition II," the first two fields of black microphone stands, wired to move, with wooden "beaks" that seem to emit bird sounds.

In a written statement, Lincoln said she uses movement, space, and time in her work. She begins by exploring some thing or phenomena in the world, observing and researching its structure and the context in which it exists.

"I then go into the studio and begin to reconstruct the thing/phenomena that has caught my attention," Lincoln wrote. "Over the course of this reconstruction I change it's scale and function, alter it's perspective and application, and use materials not normally attributed to the original."

The exhibit will be up through Jan. 15.


What To Read Next
Get Local