(By Kira Catanzaro) A rare bird flies about her nest in a flurry of activity. She twists wire, builds frames and creates posters in preparation for her next gallery opening. Her hatchery is a live/work studio hidden in a tropical jungle of bamboo, palm and eucalyptus off of Grove Street.
Jonqui Albin is an enthusiastic and innovative artist with a lifetime of experience. She has worked as a conceptual artist in various mediums and multimedia technologies. She is a published illustrator, designer and storyboard artist. She is a teacher, motivational presenter and a performance artist. Now, she is Sonoma’s wild bird activist/artist.
When Jonqui began studying and sketching birds in preparation for a private commission of a wire bird sculpture to hang in a two-storey stairwell, she had no idea her efforts would become a multi-faceted enterprise to raise awareness and activate public involvement in wild bird preservation: Birdarting.
“I became interested in birds without noticing it,” Jonqui said. “And I look like a bird,” she laughs, shaking her shock of unmistakable red hair, lifting her elbows and unfurling her arms like wings.
Jonqui’s bird studies and habitat sketching reveal birds’ social and physical structures, and provide a chance for a soul connection to wild birds’spirits. These studies are the source of vitality in her images and in her Wild Wire Birds, which she creates using a self-invented meshing method.
She hosts monthly birding sketchbook hikes at various locations from San Francisco and Sacramento to Marin and Sonoma Counties. Local marshes and lagoons are full of waterfowl: redwings, swifts, swans, white pelicans and hawks. Beach trips also provide active subjects. She focuses on birds with lots of personality, like ravens, brown pelicans and cranes.
Jonqui recently completed a 23-week docent-training program at Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen. Working with various bird preservation organizations, like Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center and California Foundation for Birds of Prey (CFBP) she has also learned about the dangers wild birds face. Their habitats are being altered by catastrophes like oil slicks and through climate change. Some species aren’t adapting, making timely migrations, and their feet are freezing. Birds also suffer many injuries, especially in their first year of life.
“They’re like teenagers driving fast cars. They have incredible speed and no judgment. They crash, and get hit by cars, too,” said Jonqui.
Jonqui raises awareness about these bird preservation issues through live bird events, classes and exhibits throughout Sonoma County. (She donates 10 percent of her proceeds to preservation organizations.) Recently, she did an exhibit of live performance painting at Armstrong Redwood’s Art in the Park, where she captured large-scale (5’ x 9’) paintings of a red-tailed hawk, demonstrating the possibilities of working with active models in nature. Her wire sculpture, “Hawk Catching the Wind” just won First Place in the juried art show at Railroad Square’s Wine and Swine event. She was also the featured artist at the Upstairs Gallery in Healdsburg for the month of July.
The bird artist/activist is about to open a very special exhibit, Raptors Live Art, at Chroma Gallery in Santa Rosa’s SOFA district. Her Wild Wire Birds, large-scale narrative bird paintings and drawings will be on display from August 23 through September 20.
The gallery will also host Jonqui’s live-bird drawing and wire sculpting classes as well as a wire sculpting demonstration at SOFA’s First Friday and a performance by the artist at the closing party on September 20.
Jonqui’s work can be seen closer to home at Studio 35 Gallery on Patten Street. They will host a series of Bird Arting Classes in September, and she will be a featured artist on October 3, from 6 to 8 p.m., at their weekly Friday Night Meet the Artists Party, so you can meet her in person. For a full schedule of events visit birdarting.com.
“I’m a lifetime artist and I want to do something with purpose and meaning,” said Jonqui, “that’s not ‘for the birds.’”