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Leila Jeffreys · Ornithurae

Art

Sydney-based artist, photographer and environmentalist Leila Jeffreys is well known for her striking portraits of native birds, and we’ve been lucky enough to cover a number of her projects over the years.

This month Leila unveils her latest project, ‘Ornithurae‘,  an exhibition in New York City, opening tonight!

 

13th October, 2017

Ornithurae‘ by Leila Jeffreys opens tonight at Olsen Gruin Gallery in New York City. Pictured here are the limited edition art photographs: ‘Yogi Umbrella Cockatoo’ and ‘Skye Red-tailed Black Cockatoo’. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

‘New Guinea Ground Dove’. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

‘Topknot Pigeon’. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

‘This series is a change in direction for me because I’ve spent my art practice mostly working with rescued wildlife. But I wanted to create work that showcased the incredible diversity of birdlife and it’s hard to find all these different species in care so a lot of the pigeons for the exhibition were photographed out at Sydney’s Taronga Conservation Society,’ explains Leila. Photo – courtesy of Olsen Gruin Gallery and the artist.

‘Superb Fruit-dove’.  Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

‘Emerald Dove’. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

Inside the exhibition, which has been three-years in the making. Photo – courtesy of Olsen Gruin Gallery and the artist.

‘Squatter Pigeon’. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

Photo – courtesy of Olsen Gruin Gallery and the artist.

‘Snowfall’ – a more conceptual art piece from the series. Photo – Leila Jeffreys.

Ornithurae‘ is on exhibit at Olsen Gruin Gallery in New York City. Photo – courtesy of Olsen Gruin Gallery and the artist.

‘I’m always driven to create work that is beautiful, sometimes humorous but also surprising.’ – Leila Jeffreys.

Ornithurae has been three years in the making for Sydney-based photographer Leila Jeffreys. ‘It’s a bit like searching for a golden thread, photographing many different birds until I start to see a series emerge,’ she says.

Taking its name from an ancient Greek word which means ‘bird tails’, the show’s titles refers to the group of all modern birds and their evolutionary ancestor. For this project, Leila has tracked down birds all across Australasia, profiling two species groups: pigeons and cockatoos, as well as creating a more conceptual art piece entitled ‘Snowfall’.

Having spent the better part of the last five years seeking out, meeting and photographing various rare bird species, it’s no surprise Leila has become a bird whisperer of sorts. A few encounters with beautiful rainforest pigeons whilst birdwatching provided the impetus for her new pigeon series. ‘The first time I saw a bleeding heart dove it made me adamant that this is a series worth pursuing, as it has absolutely extraordinary markings,’ Leila explains.

The artist is quick to dispel any misconceptions about the humble pigeon, and encourage the public to view this species in a new light. She points us to an essay by biologist and author Tim Low, in which he states: ‘We ought not take pigeons for granted. To pigeonhole them as urban scroungers does them an injustice… Scientists testing their navigation have found them to be multi-skilled, able to return home by evaluating landscape smells, the position of the sun, planetary magnetism, the lines marked by highways, and probably infrasound.’

According to Tim, pigeons have been documented returning home after being transported somewhere new while anaesthetised and sealed inside a container (sounds a bit rough for the pigeon, but impressive nonetheless).

Cockatoos, meanwhile, are a recurrent theme in Leila’s work; the artist says she loves working with cockatoos because ‘they ooze personality and humour’!

The ‘Snowfall’ piece is a slight deviation from Leila’s usual style. For this work, Leila photographed a flock of white budgerigars in a birch tree. ‘The work is printed at almost two-metres tall, and from a distance looks like it’s snow falling, but up close you see all these little birds darting around, sleeping and chewing on branches,’ Leila describes. ‘This is quite different to anything I’ve done before.’

Another thing she hasn’t done before, is exhibit in New York City! This show will be Leila’s first outside of Australia, and it’s been made possible in part, by the support of Hollywood actress Brooke Shields (not kidding!). ‘Brooke Shields is a big art collector, and is doing me the great honour of hosting my exhibition for me,’ Leila mentions. Okaaaay.

Up next for Leila is a larger-than-life outdoor exhibition, ‘QBE MUSE @ Taronga Zoo’, in Sydney very soon – we’ll keep you posted!

Ornithurae‘ by Leila Jeffreys
October 13th to November 12th
Opening night October 13th 5.00pm – 8.00pm
Olsen Gruin Gallery
30 Orchard Street, New York, NY

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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