Author(s): Walton Ford
Walton Ford's watercolors of animals could be mistaken for 19th century natural science illustrations or British colonial paintings. This book explores Ford's oeuvre. It includes a biography and excerpts from the textual sources for the paintings, from Vietnamese folktales to the "Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini".
Walton Ford grew up in Westchester County, New York, in a family of gifted storytellers. As a child he was an amateur naturalist - collecting animals, hiking, fishing, and devoting much of his free time to examining and drawing the dioramas and specimens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He completed his studies in filmmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, but soon adapted his talent for storytelling to painting. His life-size watercolors, which at first glance appear to be in the vein of 19th-century natural-history painters like John J. Audubon or Edward Lear, are actually complexly layered fantasies depicting wild animals in unnatural settings and situations, and cite textual sources ranging from the letters of Benjamin Franklin to the journals of Leonardo da Vinci. Ford lived in New York City for most of the 1980s and '90s - home base for personally and professional influential travels to countries including Italy, India, and Mexico - and for some years supported himself as a wood refinisher, carpenter, metalworker, and illustrator, while developing his craft and audience. His work has been exhibited widely since 1987 at private galleries and public institutions including The Whitney Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, Michael Cohn Gallery in Los Angeles. He has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. He now lives, works, and hikes in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. Bill Buford was the fiction editor of the New Yorker for eight years, where he first came upon Walton Ford's work to illustrate some of the stories he published. He is now a New Yorker staff writer. He was also the founding editor of Granta and has written two books, Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as a Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. He lives in New York City with his wife Jessica Green, and their two sons.