Dancing with awkward-limbed jigs and posing about in balletic positions, a company of parrots strive to find balance between their lovely, chromatic plumage and augmented, bipedal faculties. The shock of a parrot sprouting legs below his feathery torso is tempered by a vintage storybook aesthetic in Nives Widauer‘s watercolors. Nonsensical anatomy is exactly in the wheelhouse of the Swiss illustrator.
The artist has long exercised a curious, cruising style in her exploration of form, including collage, moving picture, and installation. Having studied visual arts in Basel, Switzerland, her training in video and set design influenced her choices in compositional balance and the use of unexpected video technique. Her work in the painted series, Lora et ses amies, touches upon the artist’s favoring of juxtaposition and irreverent surprises. Each of Widauer’s drawings is based off an original illustration by the 19th-century artist and poet Edward Lear.
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In her book Do I Dream or Am I Alive, Widauer explains to Sabine Schaschl how people’s particular fascination for parrots inspired the artist to explore the different parallels between the vibrant bird species and humans.
“They [the parrots] are known to be highly intelligent. Their life is roughly that of humans, but it is their capacity for imitating voices, of ‘talking,’ that forms a mirror-image relationship to people. The blaze of color of the plumage and feather of the birds portrayed are taken… as the starting point, and [I] add individual human extremities to the illustrations.”
Widauer layers another form of personification by naming each drawing after a woman found in literature, or one of her real-life confidantes. The humanizing qualities in the pieces strengthens—as Schaschl describes it—the “emotional camouflage with emotional sensitivity.”