Audubon: The Foraged Wood Thrush

Like so many others, artist Jessica Maffia took refuge in nature in the earliest days of the pandemic. “I’d been thinking about our local nature for some years, but during quarantine, that’s all I wanted to do,” she says. “I wasn’t making art for a long time—I was just coming and getting to know who the more-than-human neighbors are.”

Although she took part in her first guided bird walk in 2016, it was only in the spring of 2020 that she began birding more seriously, taking classes on birdsong—Maffia can now identify more than two dozen birds by ear—and patch birding, revisiting the same place and learning its avian residents and visitors. Since then, Maffia has embraced Inwood Hill Park in uptown Manhattan as her patch. That’s where I reached her by video call in May, her face framed by trees, the birdsong in the background as clear as her voice. “I’m finding that my nature enthusiasm and art practice are very much merging,” Maffia says.

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Audubon: How Xavi Bou Makes His Mesmerizing Portraits of Birds in Flight

“I don’t want to show a bird flying,” says photographer Xavi Bou. “I want to show a flight.”

Although Bou has dedicated years of his life to photographing birds, someone encountering his work for the first time could be excused for having no idea what his subject is. In a project called Ornithographies, he creates mesmerizing images by taking many photographs per second and stitching up to 3,500 or more of them together. The results are beautifully abstract, capturing the energy of flight, whether in the chaotic squiggles that result when Alpine Swifts dive and swoop for insects, or the smooth, even undulations of a gull flying over the water. They may not be moving pictures—although Bou uses a cinema camera that takes 60 frames a second—but they have movement.

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Tenderly: Patricia Highsmith’s Uncommon Empathy for Animals

Patricia Highsmith, the novelist best known for creating the diabolically charming character Tom Ripley, was a notorious misanthrope. An editor once characterized her as “a horrible human being” and a fellow writer described her as “an excellent hater.” But, at the very least, she loved animals. When she came across spiders inside the house, she would carefully carry them to the garden outside. She had a particular affection for snails, and kept some 300 of them as pets when she lived in a cottage in Suffolk, as well as for cats, with whom she was often photographed. Her feline relationships, a biographer wrote, were “often counted as her longest and most successful emotional connection.”

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