Call and Response: Zdenko Krtic

JCSM called nine members of the university community to respond objectively and subjectively to art from JCSM’s growing collection of natural history prints. The resulting exhibition is an orchestrated chorus of diverse voices responding to the art, science, and wonder of representing the natural world.

To expand the conversation, Ralph Brown Draughon Library’s Special Collections Department loaned materials from their collections; JCSM appreciates their kind collaboration. We also thank the Auburn University Museum of Natural History in the College of Science and Mathematics for loaning materials from their ornithology collection.

Zdenko Krti?, painter

Powdered graphite with laser and hand engraving, salvaged frames

Owls have a distinctive forward-facing gaze that can make them seem almost human. Their eyes are actually fixed in their sockets, but their necks have a remarkable range of motions, allowing them to swivel their heads 270 degrees! Here are two portraits of owls, Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl, framed in a manner that family portraits would be. The two species of nocturnal birds of prey possess the resemblences one might find in siblings in typical family portraits. And just like with us humans, these animals also have their unique and varied personalities.

“Bubo Virginians”
The Great Horned Owl, also known as the Tiger Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. Her hooting sounds and her extraordinarily large gleaming eyes are easily recognizable. Depicted countless times in both fact and fiction, owls are a staple of great world mythologies, occult, children’s books, and unavoidable cultural kitsch.

Diptych, “Nocturnal Flight”
Watercolor and India ink with laser and hand engraving

We have a natural instinctual connection with nature (wildness) that we often lose as we grow up. My intent in this work is to remind us of this often neglected connection.

John James Audubon’s representation, “Barred Owl” was my starting point, to which I added another majestic owl, the Great Horned Owl, a skeleton of which is on display in the gallery. Both owls are native, common, and widespread in our region.

The feathers of these stealthy nighttime hunters are engineered for silent flight. In addition, these birds have acute night vision and hearing. Being nocturnal and often hidden from view, owls, that tend to be solitary, became symbolic. The gift of premonition (foretelling events) among other powers was ascribed to them perhaps because they live in the darkness and silence of the night, a space we can enter to concentrate and compose our thoughts.

For these reasons, and to showcase their majesty, I have depicted them in “negative,” looking almost like ghostly giant moths, gliding effortlessly through darkness, surrounded by silence.

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