Self-taught artist Josie Morway immortalizes different species of birds in hyper-realistic portraits. She uses traditional oil painting techniques and dramatic iconography to envelope each creature in a mystical setting that borders on the surreal.
Based in Boston, Morway's practice explores the vulnerability and resilience of nature—especially as it relates to people and industrialization. “I think of these paintings as somewhat talismanic, and the stranger elements are also my attempt to arrest the viewer, my plea for attention, reflection, respect,” Morway tells My Modern Met. “The creatures here have almost magical powers of transformation and protection, though what exactly they’re transforming into is unclear. Nature is changing, for sure, and we should never be complacent about what that change may mean.”
Although many animals are featured in Morway's paintings, she most often uses varieties of birds to create an enigmatic yet foreboding atmosphere. A couple of crows surround melting ice cream while a barn owl perches on a headless statue and a hawk pecks at marshmallows. The realism, as well as the mix of subjects, is visually striking. “I hope to avoid oversimplification,” she explains, “and instead try to enhance the feeling of mystery, to make images that are intricate and uncomfortable, and to remind myself that no matter how carefully I observe and portray the wild I cannot truly know it.”