Fear has never been a stranger to the art world. Art gives us a safe space from which to explore death, darkness, and all the things that go bump in the night. Doing so can be empowering. Consider the medieval theory of memento mori—the active recollection of one’s mortality, of the transience of life and all earthly pursuits. Artists often paid homage to extinction by including certain symbols in their work, either overt (as in a skull) or more subtle (as in a wilting flower). This goes beyond the macabre—it helps us live a little.
Think about the adrenaline rush that comes along with a wee fright: Our hearts beat faster, we breathe a bit heavier, our instincts sharpen. We feel alive. You might say this is the way the best art should make you feel, regardless of subject matter, and we’d agree.
In honor of that rare and wonderful intersection of spooky and stunning, we’re releasing our tenth John James Audubon edition, Plate 171: Barn Owl. In typical Audubon fashion, these feathered creatures are rendered with incredible attention to detail, and the touch of an artist who truly loved and respected his subjects. Just look into their expressive eyes. Observe the elegant span of their wings, fanned out nobly as if in the hand of an aristocratic lady. He’s positioned the two owls so that we can fully appreciate their physique—pale, bespeckled underbelly and autumnal overcoat.
But we can’t conceive of this Audubon print without pointing out the chipmunk, dangling lifeless from the talons of the owl on top. It’s a reminder of this predator’s power—raw and unrestrained, intimidating even. This edition is at once an image of striking animal beauty, and an artful acknowledgement of death as part of the natural process. It’s a love letter to the nocturnal land where life meets death. Give it a gander, and get your blood pumping.
Want more art to give you bated breath? Peep this collection of prints.
With art for everyone,