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I called in to the ‘Nest’ exhibition at the McLelland Gallery near Frankston this weekend, and was glad I did. It was a bit wet for a real walk around the sculpture garden, but the ‘Nest’ exhibition was good enough by itself.

It consisted of two parts: “Nests: the art of birds”, curated by Dr Janine Burke, which describes itself this way:

What are nests if not art created by nature? Guest curator Dr Janine Burke has devised an exhibition which explores the beauty, ingenuity and originality of birds’ nests – from magpies to honeyeaters, from chaffinches to parrots, from hummingbirds to African weavers. Sourced from the collections of Museum Victoria and from the private collection of Gay Bilson, these exquisite constructions reveal the lives and habits of our closest wild neighbours. They tell the story of birds’ survival and adaptation to our ecologically fragile planet.

Nest displays the architectural skill of birds, their consummate ability to make work that is both delicate and durable, as well as the astonishing array of materials they use. This exhibition invites audiences to connect with nature in a new way – observe nests in all their resourcefulness, diversity and elegance.

The actual nests are beautiful and diverse, sometimes haphazard looking as a pile of leaves, other times as precise as a piece of pottery. I loved one that was wrapped in silken spider web and lined like an elaborate cushion. They were presented in glass cases, labelled, like they were art. Which was the point I guess.

The accompanying exhibition is called ‘Air Born’ and is described as:

AIR BORN brings together a vibrant collection of 19 contemporary artists’ work who through their varying artistic disciplines are inspired by birds, either as subject or who emulate through their work aspects of avian habitats and rituals.

Birds have played a vivid role in the conceptual and spiritual life of many cultures. AIR BORN inspires an exploration of these cultural traditions and symbology by unravelling varying ideas surrounding the bird and our interaction with them. The themes presented in these works traverse art and cultural history as well as ideas of adornment, volatility, migration, environment, place and identity.

My favourite piece here was John Wolseley’s larger watercolour. I’ve seen his work before, and have a copy of ‘Lines for Birds’, a collaboration between Wolseley and writer Barry Hill, which I also really enjoyed. There’s a short profile of Wolseley here.

I also grabbed a copy of Burke’s book Nest (Allen & Unwin, 2012) while I was there. It was a nice way to spend an hour or so and really interesting blend of the natural, the art and the written word.



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