Beautifully Realistic-Yet-Surreal Portraits of Birds by John Pusateri

Combining photography and painting, New Zealand-based artist John Pusateri composes beautifully surreal portraits of birds in his series Phase Transition. The animals featured are highly detailed and display individual feathers as well as crevices on their beaks and between their feet. Sometimes, it's hard to tell whether the birds are photos or paintings because they appear so realistic. Pusateri achieves this effect by layering the different media which creates a richly-colored and complex picture.

Most of Pusateri's birds exist in abstract environments. Sometimes, there's a calm gradient of blue color around them, and other times it's more chaotic. He will use non-representational marks or brush strokes to surround his subjects in a brilliant-yet-strange haze of texture.

Pusateri is inspired by museum exhibits, which could be why we see the birds standing on small pedestals or raised surfaces as if they're on display. Their stances are reminiscent of something you'd see as you were walking through a natural history museum. Here, the artist takes them out of an institutional setting and into a place that he imagines.

John Pusateri website and Behance page
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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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