Reimagining the American Flamingo

Artist Dan Winters turns the lanky wader into a 'creature of lore.'

For several weeks this spring, Austin-based artist Dan Winters mulled over John James Audubon’s American Flamingo. “The more I looked at it, the more its neck stood out,” he says. What, he wondered, if it had multiple necks and heads? “I like the idea of creating this creature of lore that doesn’t exist.”

To fashion his fanciful flamingo, Winters printed six copies of Audubon’s rendering, carefully snipping them into pieces that he reassembled into a “surgically modified” version of the original. He glued the collage to a 12-by-12-inch piece of plywood painted with acrylic and incorporated newspaper, pencil, and India ink. The tiny arrows call out motion, he says, making the piece feel more kinetic.

Winters, a renowned photographer, has long been fascinated with birds and has reimagined several Audubon paintings, including the Golden Eagle. “He was an amazing naturalist and painter, and he’s left an incredible legacy,” he says. This was his first experiment with the flamingo, a bird he finds striking yet gawky. That duality surely wasn’t lost on Audubon, who made life-size portrayals; when painting the four-foot bird on three-foot paper, he, too, focused on the “extremely elongated” neck, curving it dramatically downward so the lanky wader fit on the page.