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words // Johnny Sudekum

Birds. Some weekend warriors watch them religiously afar, equipped with binoculars and all. Others, who aren’t really dog people, and not quite cat lovers, feed them. Then you have painters like Nissa Kauppila who portray them in an explosive haze of feathers and beaks.

Nissa accomplishes something unique to most artists. Between images of distorted flight, she manages to bridge the gap between something delicate yet chaotic. As someone who finds themselves struck by the confusing nature of flight, Nissa accomplishes to catch anything from butterflies to a ducks in their rawest form.

With a “there and back again” art career, Nissa resembles something of a hiatus sandwich; she graduated RISD as a bachelor of fine arts in 2005, yet has recently switched gears to teaching primarily digital design & technology as well as Social Studies at South Burlington High School. Roughly seven years later Nissa has dusted off her brushes to jump back into the east coast art scene.

As somebody who doesn’t value art by its price tag, it makes sense that Nissa’s paintings first took flight as birthday gifts. Four years down the line, these gifts have become something of a phenomenon to the artist herself as she grabs hold to this wave of success.

Yet the gradual recognition that Nissa is receiving hasn’t changed her perception or ritual of art. She hasn’t quit her day job, she still arrives home in the afternoon from a day of work, and she still unwinds by doing something she’s passionate about. Her inspiration, even, still comes from photos that she has taken in her own backyard, photos her friends send her and even the occasional Instagram post.

But what is most interesting about Nissa’s work is the way in which she will take upwards of four different pictures, of real birds, and meld them on canvas to make a single fluid scene. By doing so, these paintings present a foundation of realistic images with an abstract warp that leaves the viewer a little less familiar with what they’re looking at.

Amidst this sudden success Nissa’s genuinely glad just to be painting. Although she’d like to explore her artwork further than animals, she enjoys hacking a different side of herself through the chaotic nature they display. For now at least, Nissa is high school teacher, Ms. Kauppila, by day, bird exploder, by night.

Nissa currently has exhibitions in SEABA, Burlington City Arts, Edgewater Gallery, AAF NYC, Albers Fine Art Andover, MA, and the Burlington Marriot.

Here’s a few more of our favs from her collection, and make sure to check out her other work at