Q&A: Heather Middlebrooks, Metro Pulse Triage artist

Birds. Birds everywhere. The last show I saw of yours, about three or four years ago, you were also doing birds. What is it about birds?

The original idea came from a dream when my grandfather was sick in 2000. From there I started studying birds and my work became about family and how we pass down information much like birds pass down flight. When that phase passed, they simply became a design element that I just have not let go of.

The birds are always in shadow, having no features but their basic shape. What does this say about birds?

In this show I did focus on what I call my silhouette paintings. This work is very graphic and sleek—becoming about the relationships of the shapes and surface. In reference to nature, I am very attuned to the birds that are around me—maybe more than the average person—but birds fly in and out of our space without much notice, much like a shadow.

What do you think of all those birds dying suddenly and falling out of the sky?

First it really creeped me out. I'm not a fan of science fiction and it was like science fiction come to life. I just can't imagine walking around and then being pelted with dead birds. Secondly, it broke my heart. They were red-winged black birds, which are one of my favorites. When you are lucky enough to spot one it's like seeing a secret splash of color.

Is this all in acrylic? Is it a medium you prefer for any special reason?

I began using latex for ground colors in college. It was a quick way to create surface. It also took a choice away from me and forced me to deal with what I had, since the "getting place" was the premixed paints at the home supply store that no one would take. Since then I have had some colors specifically mixed as well, but my favorite is the Glidden Internet offers for free samples. I get all my friends and family to choose colors for me and order them. Then I'm back to having to "deal" with what I've got.