Though they’re depicted as light and whimsical, local artist Ann Carter paints birds that have a deeper meaning under their aesthetic beauty.
Carter’s paintings, including a bird series, currently are displayed in the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in downtown Manhattan.
“It’s sort of the idea that birds are magical creatures,” Carter said.
The 61-year-old artist started the series about a year ago, when she and a friend went to a workshop about encaustic painting – artwork made by melting beeswax and adding color to it.
But Carter came about the bird series unexpectedly.
“I didn’t know if I liked [the workshop] or not,” Carter said. “When I came home, the one piece I liked had a bird on it.
“Then I started doing them and I really liked them, and then I realized birds had been very important.”
In fact, it was a bird that started the process of Carter adopting a child.
Carter was sitting outside her home one day many years ago, when a finch flew into a window – stunning itself in the process.
Carter said she warmed up the finch with her hands and when it flew away, she realized she needed more living things in her life.
For her, that meant a family.
When Carter was 45, she adopted her daughter Helen (now 17) from China – after a friend gave her an article about adopting from that country.
But Carter said the geographical part of the decision was a drawn-out process.
“It turns out the month I decided to go with China was the month my daughter was born,” she said. “That’s what Chinese call a red thread.”
The “thread” indicates a belief in destiny, where gods tie a red string between people who are supposed to meet each other.
Carter said in another coincidence, Helen had the same birthday as Carter’s aunt – for whom she was named.
Four years after Helen’s adoption, Carter adopted her daughter Rose (11) from Vietnam, and she was another red thread.
“I had picked [the name] Rose before I knew her, and her given name means spring flower,” Carter said.
Carter has written a book about her daughters’ adoptions and parenting called “Spiders from Heaven.”
“The adoption process is very up and down, a lot of angst,” Carter said. “You’re wondering whether you’re going to get a child, whether you can cope once you get a child, what the child’s going to be like.”
The book, published a year ago Tuesday, includes the thoughts Carter wrote in emails during her daughters’ adoptions.
She said parenting helped her be more vulnerable in art.
“I think the vulnerability for a writer or artist is that people are going to look at your work and think, ‘Who is she? Does she really think she’s a writer?’ ” Carter said.
“With my art, I didn’t want somebody to look at it and say it was greeting card sentimental, so I realized after (raising) children, it’s OK showing your emotions.”
Carter said that’s because parenting makes one naturally vulnerable.
“You’re vulnerable to your children, you’re vulnerable to the public, you might as well be [vulnerable in art],” she said.
Birds, too, are vulnerable creatures, Carter said in her artist statement.
But she suggested they are also a source of strength in spite of that, or perhaps because of it.
“For me, I think these birds have a certain spirit that’s uplifting,” she said.