About three years ago George Klauba arrived home from his afternoon walk to find two birds coupling missionary style on his doorstep. The bird on its back had its wings spread as wide as they could go, wide enough for Klauba to see what looked like an armpit. “It was all a pale white, and it made me think of a woman,” he says. When the birds noticed him and flew off, Klauba felt as embarrassed as if he’d caught a pair of human lovers in the act. “It sort of clicked, and it made me think about people and birds, with doing people as birds,” he says. Retired, widowed, and living alone in his North Park bungalow, Klauba, who’s 66, eventually moved his studio out of the basement and into the back bedroom that had been his wife’s writing room. (“Let’s face it, it’s brighter than the basement,” he says.) Now he and Judith Lloyd, a writer with whom he’s formed a romantic relationship, are collaborating on a book of paintings paired with excerpts from Moby-Dick. Klauba’s currently on the 15th of 22 acrylics based on scenes from the novel. All the characters except the whale have birds’ heads.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.