Vanessa Foley, artist

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

vanessa foleyComment


Once again I had the honour of showing in another brilliant show at Antler Gallery Portland, alongside some incredible artists I have admired for many years. Showing at Antler is always such a pleasure and although this is the first time I've participated in the annual Unnatural Histories (now in its third year) exhibition I can tell its going to be a highlight of my artists year!

Each piece of art comes with its own myth, either an existing one or one created by the artist, this adds so much richness to the work and I adored creating this little guys story. Ive added my myth at the end of this post for anyone who is curious, and the rest of the beautiful artworks along with their unnatural histories can be found here


 During my research into this painting I came across an obscure and forgotten legend explaining the burned orange breast feathers of the kingfisher.

According to the ancient text a particularly cold and cruel winter made her wicked way into spring. Th rising waters, lashing rain and biting wind threatened the riverbed nest of a pair of devoted kingfishers, the plaintive cries of their wet and miserable young continued day and night. 

Eventually fearful for their health father kingfisher stole a flaming arrow from the gods (the gods at that time were notorious for their careless and reckless games of chance) This arrow quickly became too for the kingfisher to carry as he flew and the flames licked around his little body, scorching his chest and forcing hime to drop his prize.

This thievery did not go unpunished, but it was a benevolent god that noticed his trespass and meted out justice. She transformed the kingfishers breast feathers from the burned black into a flaming orange, both as a reminder of the theft and as a symbol of his brave devotion to his family. The god further vowed that, from that time on, to make springtime a season of fair weathers and calm waters.