Seriously, just look at that. Imagine how many tiny, tiny cuts those birds took to make.
These shadowboxes are the work of Chris Maynard, self-confessed feather-obsessed artist. The shadowboxes often depict the very species of bird the feathers originated from. Like this one:
Working out of Olympia, Washington, where he raises his own Impeyan Pheasants, Maynard gets the feathers from private aviaries and zoos. Then, using eye surgery scissors, forceps, and magnifying glasses, he produces the art you see above and below. He really is obsessed with feathers, with his blog covering everything from the legality of buying and selling feathers (Did you know there's a United States law called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?) to why feathers are curved. He also links to the site of PhD candidate Rafael Maia, who is researching "development and evolution of iridescent colors in feathers."
Here's a Geobeats Art video on the feather-based art:
The work is obviously pretty painstaking, as this close-up from designboom shows:
Maynard explains why he does this in a blog post titled "Making Meaning":
Feathers are perfect by themselves so why make art with them? I do it to add meaning: to direct the viewer to ideas they can relate to. Giving meaning abstracts from the thing viewed. The meaning is not the actual object seen. It involves assumptions which can be wrong. Here’s an example: These sharp-tailed grouse feathers are not grown by the bird to be images of big-breasted love demons, nor deer prints, nor heart-lipped faces. They just add to the bird’s camouflage helping it hide. I like to remember that the viewer’s mind gives meaning, not the thing viewed. The things themselves are just innocent participants of the mind’s workings. Whether it is the color of someone’s skin, the way people dress, or how we see a feather, seeking meaning helps make sense of the world. It is a very human quality.
Even when he incorporates unaltered feathers, Maynard plays with light and negative space.
You can see more of Maynard's work at his website.