Spencer Tinkham: Witness¬

A wooden sculpture of a close up view of a starling

Spencer Tinkham, Sturnus vulgaris (European Starling)(detail), 1890–2023. Oil paint on carved basswood. Courtesy of the artist.


February 9, 2024-June 9, 2024

“No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.” —Oscar Wilde

Artist Spencer Tinkham loves nature and art and has made a study of both. From an early age, he became enthralled with the study of birds, admiring the rich diversity and variety found in his childhood neighborhood. They inspired him to look more closely, observing the beauty of their design and structure. He realized that through sculpture, he could preserve his fleeting encounters with nature’s inhabitants. Tinkham travels across the country to research specimens found in natural history museums, discovering the fascinating individual narratives birds have courted for millennia. They were and are tiny witnesses to the big things happening on our planet. Tinkham pieces together their stories and shares their minute beauty with us, carving the details of their feathers into enlarged spotlights.

Birds have existed in every age of human history. They live on every continent and ocean, bearing witness to the great changes on our planet, both natural and manmade. They are a fluttering, swooping, soaring part of our lives. We share this earth with them as their neighbors, albeit poor ones, destroying their habitats and averting our gaze from their decline. But it’s important to recognize that our ecological fates are intertwined—what happens to them will happen to us. If they disappear, so eventually will we. Tinkham shares their stories of witness with us. Their fragile beauty is magnified so as not to be missed by the careless eye.

Tinkham’s work is collected and exhibited internationally. He is a David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023 finalist and has pieces in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and Dollar Tree, Inc. collections.