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Artist Forages for Flowers and Leaves in Forest to Create Ephemeral Bird Portraits

Earth Art by Hannah Bullen-Ryner

The natural world has everything you need to create art. You just have to know where to look. Artist Hannah Bullen-Ryner highlights how, with the right eye and keen attention to detail, it's possible to create stunning portraits of our feathered friends. She arranges twigs, leaves, flower petals, and berries into tiny birds that have a fleeting existence on the ground as land art.

Bullen's work has a painterly feel, as each tiny element is layered like a brushstroke. With this aesthetic, it should come as no surprise that Bullen-Ryner began her artistic practice as a painter and photographer. But in turning her creativity to the forest, she discovered an immense comfort. “Finding the medium of land art has allowed my art and my connection to the earth my soul so needed to combine,” she tells My Modern Met. “As a full-time mama of (nearly) three-year-old twin girls, and someone who suffers from anxiety, my art is my quiet time, my peace.”

Each of Bullen-Ryner’s pieces comprises locally sourced and foraged materials. Nothing is glued or tethered, which means her work might only last a few minutes before parts begin to fly away with the breeze. So, why does she choose to work this way? “People often ask me why don't I make something more permanent or they say it's such a shame that it's temporary,” Buller-Ryner shares. “But for me, it is the ephemeral nature of what I do that has become like therapy for my soul. I get to put down all my anxieties, my fears, all the chaos from my brain and turn it into something beautiful to honor Mother Nature. I take some photos and then walk or cycle away, leaving it all behind and feeling calmer, more connected, and truly lighter.”

Artist Hannah Bullen-Ryner forages the forest to create ephemeral Earth art of birds.

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My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Hannah Bullen-Ryner.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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