A Twist on Audobon’s ‘Birds of America’ in New Paintings by Penelope Gottlieb
Signature: Signed lower right, "PG."
Penelope Gottlieb upends the genteel conventions of 19th-century nature illustrations, repurposing a taxonomic style of drawing to address environmental crises. Her highly detailed, large-scale compositions recall John James Audubon’s illustrations of birds and flora, but suggest a sense of violence done to the environment with their squirts of red ink and plants’ tendrils binding birds. In other work she incorporates similar subjects but adopts a more psychedelic style, with bursts of floral color in comic book-style explosions. Although the images veer toward the absurd, Gottlieb draws on scientific imagery, rooting her work in serious ecological concern. “They are metaphors for loss; for all the things one tries in vain to retrieve; for anything that’s truly gone,” she has said. “My life’s work is to research and record the lost plants of this planet. Animal extinctions are big news, but people forget about the plants.”
American, b. 1952, Los Angeles, California, based in Santa Barbara, California