Ravenous for Art with Miki Harder
Nearly everyone in Durango knows Miki Harder’s birds, even if they don’t know Miki Harder herself. Her style stands out. Whether the birds are sculpted in metal, painted with oils, or sketched in pencil, her creations—and most especially her ravens—pop to life with a masterful combination of mischief and realism.
“I think that they’re funny,” Harder says, discussing ravens in her home studio. “They have such distinct personalities. They are smart, and they are clever.”
Harder paints and draws other birds, as well, from owls to herons. She renders them with an authenticity that belongs in a National Audubon Society field guide. An upcoming show, opening May 24 at Illuminarts, in the Smiley Building (1309 E. 3rd Ave.), will feature birds she spotted during a recent birding trip to Costa Rica.
But those opportunistic ravens keep drawing her back in.
Her ravens often appear to be smiling or cackling. They’re giddy and gleeful, as animated as their flesh-and-blood inspirations. But you’ll know beyond all doubt that you’ve found a Miki Harder raven because of the laughter in its eyes.
“I have no idea [how I get that spark],” Harder says. “They have a look in their eye, like maybe whatever I’m thinking at the time comes through. It’s just a feeling.”
In every piece, Harder says she wants to honor ravens as a species—every part of them, from their sass to their sheen. “Technically and spiritually, that is my goal,” she says. “I think when I die, I want to become a raven.”
Harder’s illustrations, paintings, and sculptures tend to blur the line between caricature and reality. Her art taps into both her cartooning skills and her biology background. She nearly became a forester because Earth’s living systems enthrall her so deeply. But she realized that limiting herself to biology would also limit her experiences as an artist.
“It dawned on me,” she says. “If I’m an artist, my goodness, I can do it all. I can do astronomy, I can do paleontology, I can do geology, and I can pull it all together. I’m able to insert art into all the areas that I find fascinating.”
And when her existing art doesn’t fill those spaces, she branches out. She started sculpting ravens from metal and clay because she wanted to make them three-dimensional. She even branches beyond birds, at times. Two of her other favorite subjects are dragons and bristlecone pines.
That freedom to express the world however she pleases clearly connects Harder to that same world, and to the art lovers who keep her going every day.
“I feel very lucky to get to do what I do,” she says, “and I have had so much support and help along the way. I wouldn’t be here without family and friends. I’m privileged, for sure.”
Miki Harder’s art can be found in Studio & (1027 Main Ave.), in Lakewood, CO, at the Valkyrie Gallery, and online at www.mikiharderart.com.