Etched Feathers exhibition is a celebration of Florida’s magnificent birds

Etched Feathers exhibition is a celebration of Florida’s magnificent birds

Outside a large museum on the waterfront.

Etched Feathers is a marvelous exhibition for Florida bird enthusiasts, and the rare collection is now on view at The Tampa Bay History Center.

Birds have mesmerized and inspired artists for centuries. Etched Feathers examines the works and artistic processes of John Costin and other bird artists and devotees, whose creations capture the essence of winged beauty. See this incredible exhibit from March 4-Oct 15 in the Wayne Thomas Gallery at the Tampa Bay History Center.

The state of Florida is a birders paradise. Pelicans, spoonbills, herons, hawks, screech owls, parrots, and other stunning avian species make the Sunshine State an even more lush and lovely place to call home. Artist John Costin, and other infatuated creatives have used dynamic processes to capture the majesty of these creatures. Both their works, and their processes will soon be on full display at the Tampa Bay History Center, just a quick walk from the Tampa Riverwalk

Etching of a spoonbill in flight over water. An island is in the background of the etching.

John Costin has utilized the transfixing art of etching for more than 40 years. All of his etchings are of magnificent Florida birds. The intense detail of each piece is remarkable. Costin’s etchings start with shades of white, gray and black. He then keeps adding color until the birds he’s representing seem to animate and soar off the paper. 

Etching is a rare art form today, but back in the 1800s the Audubon Society made hundreds of them. Costin, an ardent birder, has collected dozens of these old etchings. He uses these antiques as inspiration for his work. 

“The process is challenging and I like that,” writes Costin in his artist statement. “1-5 copper plates are individually hand wiped with various colors of ink to create an image on paper; then each piece is meticulously hand colored.” 

A large crane painted in front of tall grass

The plates take months to create and many weeks of proofing are done before an acceptable piece is created. The etching process is a combination of drawing, sculpture and painting, and it is the oldest printing process in the world.

“One thing we want to express to our audience is that these were beautiful birds, but they also served an educational purpose,” said Brad Massey, a curator at Tampa Bay History Center, in an interview with Fox 13.

Etched Feathers: A History of the Printed Bird arrives at the Tampa Bay History Center on March 4. For more information on the exhibition, or to see upcoming events at the museum, visit TBHC’s website. Follow the Tampa Bay History Center on Facebook and Instagram for more cultural teasers. Visit John Costin’s website to see more of the artist’s work. 

Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Water Street

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