To hear Miki Harder talk or to see her recent paintings, you’d think birds were a lifelong obsession. But no. Before it was birds, she painted horses as a girl, then dolphins and whales, then cartoon people. And then came the raven and Harder’s world opened up. Suddenly ravens were everywhere.
Her bird story began at Purgatory where she saw a line of sitting ravens that seemed to be laughing at her, like jesters. It wasn’t so much being mocked, apparently, but the anthropomorphic personality the birds exuded.
“They’re really obnoxious, and they get away with it. They don’t care,” she said of ravens. “They have that kind of personality, and I wish I didn’t care so much what other people thought of me. So ravens are like my heroes.”
Harder’s diminutive and detailed bird paintings will be part of her weeklong show “Smalls” at Studio &, one of 12 galleries and art spaces participating in the First Thursdays Art Walk from 5 to 7 p.m.
Harder’s obsession with ravens broadened into an obsession with birds in general, and her enthusiasm, fascination and love for the tiny creatures that she puts into her art is infectious. They encompass endless colors and variations in patterns and body shape, she said, and their feathers keep them warm and cool them down. And don’t even get her started on the flying, which, clearly is cool to begin with, but there are some birds that fly all the way across the ocean during migration without stopping.
“These little things that are flying around us all the time, you have no idea what’s going on in their lives. They’re just so much cooler than us,” she said. “It’s like Mother Nature was having so much fun one day, and was like: ‘Let’s make some crazy-ass animals. And it’s going to be pink and green and red.’ And she got away with it.”
So what else is it about birds that has fixated Harder since last fall and single-handedly taken over her painting life? For one, they’re cute, and Harder definitely does “cute” (see horses, dolphins, cartoon people, et al.). But they’re also funny and quirky, and she loves the way they move, their family dynamics and how they relate to other species. The more she learned, the more she wanted to know: “You put your attention toward something, and you start seeing it everywhere,” she said. “If you’re into Toyota pickup trucks, all the sudden you’re going to see them on the road all the time.”
Harder said her outlook on birds and how she sees them, hears them and interacts with them has certainly changed and grown since she began painting and researching them.
“I want to create awareness so people can look around and appreciate the magic going on around them at every heartbeat,” she said. “This is a magical world. You could be entertained all the time watching the birds. There’s so much going on around us right now.
“There are so many more to do. I just want to keep painting birds.”