/05 Animals

Wendy Burton


For well over a decade I have photographed abandoned, derelict buildings: empty homes, failed factories, shuttered schools, churches devastated by Katrina. I have been drawn to the unspoken histories of these places—human presence evident even in its absence. There is a subtle connection, a bridge, to the new work I began to make this fall.

The empty nests, so artfully concealed during our lush spring and summer months, revealed themselves this autumn, tucked into the skeletal forms of trees and bushes. Each one a small miracle of architecture and engineering: each one unique.

The hunt began: my eyes scanning tangles of branches and brambles, seeking the change in density that signaled the presence of these abandoned cups of mud and twig, grass and bark. Some trail ribbon; others have discarded bits of plastic woven into their fabric. They are heart shaped, perfectly round, orderly, jumbled. Each nest somehow perfect, even in its imperfection.

What drew me to photograph them was their singular presence as distinctive sculptural objects. Their fragility and delicacy combine with surprising durability. The birds, no longer present, had left stunning artifacts of their energy and precision­—fueled by instinct and genetics in the timeless mission to attract a mate, create a home. My intention: to create images in an interior space lit by natural light, in the tradition of still life painters working centuries ago.

Wendy Burton
Stanfordville, New York
February 2011