Diana Beltran Herrera’s Paper Bird Life

Diana Beltran Herrera spends a lot of time with a pair of scissors in her hand. ”I love working with paper,” she explains. “It’s a cheap material, it doesn’t need expensive tools and it is an easy material to glue, to form and to cut.”

Herrera has just completed a series of 8 lifelike birds, made of only paper and paint, for the show Birds of Florida, showing at Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Florida. But that’s is not the whole story — Herrera has been making paper birds in her spare time for years. She has now made hundreds of them — intricate, full of life and character, amazingly just from reams of a flat, thin material and an incredible amount of patience.

“Before I started to work with birds I did many other works in paper – I started with geometric shapes just to see how far I could transform it from a 2D to a 3D medium, then I started to play with new techniques and represent things I have always liked – some fish, animals and fruits.”

Herrera studied design in Bogota before moving to Finland to study ceramic sculpture. She’s now enrolled on a fine art course in the UK. ”When I was in Columbia, I started to observe local birds and represent them in paper,” she explains. Now, her process is to begin with a photograph and trace it in Illustrator. “I use this to measure the size of every piece, like a puzzle,” she explains, “Then I start to cut everything — tail, wings, feathers, eyes, beak — paint it and leave it to dry.” The bodies are also paper, but the legs are wire mesh. She can take five days to complete a model, but some are up to two weeks.

While Herrera isn’t the first to create stunning 3D art or design works from paper, it is the style with which she translates feathers into strips of stock that makes her stand out. Her pieces are lifelike, but they are all also elegant, or curious, or caught unawares — captured in a moment of wild life. They are a result of obsessive observation, and the details can be minute — the long, thin feathers upon a bird’s head bent and twisted by hand, ever so slightly, a golden touch of realness.

“Paper is very delicate but once you develop some skill with it, you just need some scissors and some ideas.”

Birds of Florida is on display until December 8 – rollins.edu/cfam


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