Nancy’s Bird Nests

Nancy Spahr’s current exhibit of multi-media bird nests in Staunton, Virginia, is simultaneously inspiring and delightful…and disturbing.

Delightful because she combines surprising detail, careful research, and creative combinations of materials and media in her art work.

Take a look at one of her “assemblages”: basically a variation of a shadow box that contains an abandoned nest, 3D printed and hand-painted eggs, an image of a chipping sparrow superimposed on old dictionary paper.

Chipping Sparrow assemblage

Nancy emphasizes in her artist’s statement that all of her bird nests were collected well after the nesting cycle of the birds was completed. She made sure not to interfere with nature by researching each bird’s habits. Any feathers or wing parts used in her works are either from domestic fowl or found dead birds.

I particularly liked this painting of a robin’s nest cradled in the curves of an antler, the softness of the round nest held by the hard, spiky strength of the antlers.

Nest on deer antler

Another emotionally evocative piece was this mixed media construction of a robin mama guarding her nest:

Robin guarding her nest

The following piece, created with the use of oil, tar, sand and feathers, represents a barn swallow nest aptly entitled “Feathering Your Nest.” Nancy described how a pair of barn swallows built a nest from mud pellets, straw, grasses and poultry feathers inside a barn right above her work table. She had to move the table to avoid disturbing the swallow parents as they tended first to the eggs, then to the baby birds until they were ready to leave the nest.

Barn swallow nest

Then there was the disturbing part of the exhibit, city nests that incorporated trash we humans drop mindlessly wherever we go:

House sparrow city nest

When you look closely, you can see the cigarette butts woven into the nest! While research has shown that the chemicals in these cigarette butts may actually deter ticks and mites, they can also cause physical damage to the birds.

Lastly, the largest art piece was entitled “Is This The Bird’s Future?” incorporating familiar throw-away trash.

Is this the bird’s future?

A close-up:

What have we done to our world?!

To see more of Nancy Spahr’s art:

About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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16 Responses to Nancy’s Bird Nests

  1. Interesting art, both beautiful and disturbing as you mentioned.


  2. cindy knoke says:

    I see this all over the world. Birds incorporating plastic, trash, condoms, you name it into their nests, even in remote areas. The artist is right on with this.


  3. Tish Farrell says:

    What indeed have we done. This artwork speaks in so many different ways: both document and commentary.


  4. This is amazing art! I visited an artist friend of mine in Arkansas who collects birds nests. She had a beautiful hanging nest and made me guess what the white fluff was to line the nest. I couldn’t imagine. It turned out to be the inside of cigarette filters!
    Glad to see you are still writing your blog. I have kind of lost my mojo and identity since we were forced to leave Nicaragua due to a revolution.


    • Thank you, Deb. Bird nests are fascinating and can tell us so much about the state of the world! I wonder whether your friend’s nest was an Oriole nest? I am surrounded by nests this year and Nancy’s art gave me another nudge to adopt “nesting” as a personal theme this year. There’ll probably be more on that later on… Yes, I noticed that there are no more blog posts from your end. Maybe write about this weird transition and trying to find your place in the world again? You don’t have to have it all figured out to wrestle with it on paper. Best wishes.


  5. melissabluefineart says:

    We’ve made a mess, that’s for sure. However, some good things are happening. Two states have banned styrofoam, and I believe action is being taken to ban straws or at least require that they be made of something that breaks down. Not a moment too soon, given how much plastic has found its way into the ocean. In the meantime, this goes to show you how adaptable life is. As disturbing as it is to see our trash woven into nests, it gives me hope that at least some species will be able to hang in there while we figure out how to live harmoniously on our beautiful planet. Thank you for sharing this wonderful art!


  6. asqfish says:

    A beautiful review! It made me wish I was there!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan Cary says:

    Hi Nancy – I enjoyed netting you this weekend at our printing workshop . That was super fun and happy to have learned the processes , more about acrylics!

    Your paintings and assemblages are amazing!
    Keep up the great work – maybe our paths will cross again sometime!
    – Susan Cary

    Ps. Check out my work @


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