Written by Teen Leader Elena Butuzova
Recently, I bought this papier-mâché bird from the thrift store. Why? It reminded me of John James Audubon and my time in the Teen Leader internship at the New-York Historical Society. Throughout the summer internship, I asked myself what Audubon will mean to me once I am no longer part of the internship. Was it information that would last only for the summer? Or did it actually affect my life in some small, strange way? Audubon is, of course, a birdman but also someone who made me look at birds in a completely new way. Birds are no longer just a sound and a couple of colorful feathers. This may sound strange, but as an 18-year-old from New York City, I now view pigeons with some type of deeper understanding.
Hearing stories about Audubon as a growing, learning artist has also made me look at color from another perspective. When colors complement each other well, they can create layers of life-like beauty. That is essentially what Audubon did: he brought birds to life on his canvas. (…Or was it the birds’ complex beauty and Audubon’s ingenious eyes that such colors were made to be seen? Which came first?) Another unexpected, sweet surprise was that Audubon took me from history to the natural sciences. I never thought that those two subjects would cross paths.
Audubon himself holds many meanings to an array of people, and that’s what is magic about him. Audubon reels you in through his work and hooks you with the surroundings that connect everything together as a whole, almost like a symphony—a bird symphony. Those who are willing to learn about Audubon will not be misled or disappointed by what awaits them on the other side. I will remember my time here, taking my papier-mâché bird and my knowledge, to continue venturing forward to other unknown lands of history. I invite you to learn more about John James Audubon and think for yourself, “what does Audubon mean to me?”