Jean Luc Mylayne and Audubon at Illinois: Selections from the University Library’s Birds of America

February 27, 2009

written by Meredith Kooi

mylayne_336_335_334
I visited the Krannert Art Museum originally to see the exhibition Polaroids and Portraits:  A Photographic Legacy of Andy Warhol, but I was more impressed with two of the other exhibitions there – Jean Luc Mylayne and Audubon at Illinois:  Selections from the University Library’s Birds of America.

Since 1976, Jean Luc Mylayne and his wife / co-collaborator, Myléne, have been following and photographing birds.  This exhibition features his work from his and his wife’s travels from 2004 through the present in the Fort Davis, Texas area.  The photographs are huge – 4 by 5 feet.  The colors are vibrant and the multiple focal points are interesting and captivating.  Though the subjects of the photographs may be birds, Mylayne is not a wildlife photographer and the birds do not always occupy much of the composition – sometimes you have to actually look for the bird because you know that it has to be there.  His photographs are not just point-and-click, capturing a bird’s flight for moment in time.  They are carefully planned compositions, using a large format camera with a combination of different lenses to create the multiple focal points.

My favorites were No. 300 March April 2005; No. 368, February March 2006; No. 334 April May 2005; No. 335 April May 2005; and No. 336 April May 2005.

In the next gallery space, I was happy to find the Audubon at Illinois exhibition.  This exhibition features John James Audubon’s illustrations of birds in North America. Unlike Mylayne, Audubon was a naturalist and a wildlife illustrator, as per the fact that his Illustrations are scientifically correct.  However, he adds something to the drawings so that the viewer can really feel the bird and not just see it.

I liked the juxtaposition of the two “bird” exhibitions.  Mylayne is not Audubon’s contemporary, but it was nice seeing their work near each other.  Each has an intimate and unique relationship with the birds, and it is apparent in their visual representations of them.  Mylayne focuses on the landscape and the bird’s place within it.  He lives in a landscape for a long period for the birds to become used to him – then he takes the photograph.  Audubon, on the other hand, uses specimens to greater study and understand their nature – then he draws them.  Both place themselves and the viewer within the experience of birds.

Jean Luc Mylayne
January 30 – April 5, 2009

Audubon at Illinois:  Selections from the University Library’s Birds of America
January 30 – May 24, 2009

Both at the Krannert Art Musem at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pictured are No. 334 April May 2005; No. 335 April May 2005; and No. 336 April May 2005.

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