Painting the Wall of Birds mural at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Photo by Shailee Shah.
“The Wall of Birds”: Dazzling New Book Highlights Art & Eons of Bird Evolution
For release: October 16, 2018
Ithaca, NY—It’s not unusual to see visitors gaping in open-mouthed wonder while staring at a wall in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Visitor Center. Not just any wall, though. This one is covered top to bottom, side-to-side with a one-of-a-kind 2,500-square foot mural. This “Wall of Birds” depicts the diversity and 375-million-year evolution of birds and is the work of Jane Kim, artist, science illustrator, and founder of Ink Dwell studio.
To wrap your mind around the immensity of this project it may help to wrap your hands around a new book about it, THE WALL OF BIRDS: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years. The book was co-authored by Kim and Ink Dwell’s cofounder Thayer Walker. In lyrical prose and colorful details, readers travel through time from the thundering ancient ancestors of birds to the dazzling variety of forms and colors we see today, all exquisitely rendered.
“The North Island Saddleback was the very first bird I painted,” says Kim. “It took two-and-a-half years to finish all 270 birds and ancestors, all done in true-to-life size, from the 30-foot Yutyrannus to the tiny Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird.”
Through a series of essays, Kim details the process of developing an “avian Pantone” chart to keep track of the vast rainbow of colors found in birds; explains the challenges of balancing the sometimes-competing disciplines of fine art and science illustration; and reveals secrets to managing the inevitable voices of doubt that creep into the head of any artist bringing a work to life. Raves about the mural itself give a hint as to what readers can expect in the book.
“Now, this avian Vatican also has its own Michelangelo.”—Audubon
“One of the most ambitious natural history murals in the world.”—Juxtapoz
In the forward to the book, Cornell Lab director John W. Fitzpatrick explains the genesis of the huge project, which intimated other artists but animated Kim.
“If Jane ever gulped at all on grasping the magnitude of this endeavor, she never let on,” Fitzpatrick writes. “Rather, she approached the project with enthusiasm, conviction, and copious hard work…It takes enormous heart to say yes to a project so vast, and then to dive into it day in and day out for nearly three years.”
THE WALL OF BIRDS: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years will be released by HarperCollins on October 23 and is available now for pre-order at wallofbirds.com.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earthâ€™s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.