Donna Garcia and Virginia Jackson Carr’s series, Habitat, infuses humanity and wisdom in stunning portraits of the residents of AWARE Wildlife Center. In some ways, the dignity of the birds, turtles, snakes, possums, and natural surroundings offer more humanity than many humans seem able to muster during the current pandemic age.  
From a crow who can say “I love you;” to Windy and Boogie, Barn owls who met at the refuge after both were injured by humans and became inseparable partners; to Mary “Shelli” Frankenstein, an eastern box turtle—unintentionally run over by a lawnmower—who became best friends with one of the habitat’s resident snakes; the animals at AWARE are treated with the kindness and empathy we ourselves hope to deserve.
Attention is paid to the individual personalities and needs of each animal and Garcia and Carr seem to have found a window into their unique traits in portraits that afford the wildlife the respect of being individuals. In an era where compassion seems waning, these images bring a spark of recognition of what is best in the human race, we may need to rely on animals to bring it back.

—Billy Howard

Habitat features the residents of AWARE Wildlife Center. AWARE rehabilitates Georgia’s injured and orphaned native wild animals and educates the community about peaceful coexistence with wildlife. It focuses on wildlife in the Southeast (specifically Georgia) and its habitat, which is slowly disappearing due to urban sprawl. Artists Virginia Jackson Carr and Donna Garcia, explore how these residents adapt and continue to inspire humans through their rehabilitation process and beyond. Donna Garcia and Virginia Jackson Carr


The Residents

Windy & Boogie ©Donna Garcia

Windy & Boogie are barn owls. Windy came to AWARE more than a decade ago after being attacked by a person wielding a shovel who saw her as a threat.  The attacker killed her mate and broke Windy’s wing. A neighbor interceded and brought to her AWARE where her life was saved. Boogie was hit by a car and broke a wing. He bonded with Windy and they have been partners for two years.


Ellis & Cricket

Eliis and Cricket are eastern screech owls that were both hit by cars and both suffered eye injuries that prevent them from returning to the wild. Eastern screech owls are Georgia’s smallest owl species – even as adults, they weigh only about 4.5 ounces.



Owlscar ©Virginia Jackson Carr

Owlscar the Grouch is a great horned owl, the largest owl species in Georgia. Great horned owls are recognized by their distinctive ear tuft “horns.” Owlscar came to AWARE because he suffered a broken wing after being hit by a car.


Star Gazer ©Donna Garcia

Stargazer (or “Gazer”) was found as a fluffy white baby barred owl, hopping in circles in someone’s yard. Her eyesight was extremely limited because she had been born with a genetic cataract in her right eye. She got the name Stargazer because she compensates for her limited eyesight by pointing her face straight up to the sky to allow her ears to better pinpoint her surroundings.



Tappy ©Virginia Jackson Carr

Tappy is a barred owl that came to AWARE after being hit by a car. AWARE tried to pair him with Gazer, but she rejected him as she had rejected several other potential partners. Accordingly, the AWARE team sought a permanent home for him before finding one in New York. On the day Tappy was supposed to leave, after AWARE got all the permits and paperwork prepared, Tappy and Gazer started calling to each other from across the room. Once they were put next to each other, they immediately began preening each other, and they have stayed together ever since.



Lady Owlbert ©Donna Garcia

Lady Owlbert Einstein is a barred owl, the most common owl species in Georgia. She was hit by a car and suffered a permanent wing injury that prevents her from returning to the wild. Barred owls are readily recognized by their appearance and distinctive “who-cooks-for-you” call. When Owlbert arrived at AWARE, she was assumed to be a male because of her size; male owls tend to be a bit smaller than females. However, when the AWARE team conducted a blood test, they learned that she was a female.



Vel-Crow ©Donna Garcia

Vel-Crow is an American crow. He came to AWARE with a wing injury after being hit by a car. The wing had to be partially amputated, and Vel has stayed with AWARE ever since. Like crows in the wild, Vel is very good at mimicry. He is regularly heard saying, “Hello” and “I love you” in eerily human verbalization around the center.



 Delilah ©Donna Garcia

Delilah is a broad-winged hawk. She was it by a car and suffered several injuries, including a broken wing and eye and neurological damage, that require her to remain at AWARE as an ambassador. If she could live in the wild, she would join other broad-winged hawks for an annual winter migration that would take her as far south as southern Brazil before returning to Georgia in the spring.



 Mary Shelli Frankenstein ©Donna Garcia

Mary Shelli Frankenstein (“Shelli”) is an eastern box turtle. She came to AWARE after being unintentionally run over with a lawnmower. The AWARE team repaired her shell with epoxy, but damage to her back right foot prevents her from digging in for shelter in the winter and makes her nonreleasable. For several years, she was partnered with Legs, a corn snake. Legs would curl around Shelli and keep her company until Legs passed away from old age in 2017.



 Sidney ©Virginia Jackson Carr

Sidney is a Virginia opossum. Opossums are North America’s only marsupial, so they spend the first couple months of their lives in their mother’s pouch. Sidney came to AWARE as an orphan after her mother was killed, and had to have a leg amputated due to injury. She gets around using her other three legs and her muscular prehensile tail.



Jeffery ©Donna Garcia

Jeffrey is a black rat snake. He lived in the wild on and around the AWARE center at Arabia Mountain for years, until one day he was brought to the front door of AWARE after being attacked by a dog. He recovered from his physical injuries but remained unable to hunt for food, so he stays at AWARE now as a permanent ambassador.



Ballou ©Virginia Jackson Carr

Ballou is a bobcat that was taken from the wild as a kitten by someone who wanted to make her a pet. This is illegal, bad for people, and very bad for wildlife! Because she got acclimated to people, she cannot return to the wild and stays at AWARE as an educational ambassador.


The Gallery



Donna Garcia is a fine art photographer whose work elaborates on the idea of pulling away from a cultural grand narrative and towards a state of becoming and potential. She creates images that аre indexical in nature not iconic – uncertain and indeterminate.

She utilizes self-portraiture with motion to provide an indication of the other, a threat to the fixed position. It is a surplus threat to the perpetuity of the modern day super structure in defining elements like gender and racial equality. Otherness is much more because it is grounded in being and is non-binary in nature.

She has exhibited at The Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Jadite Gallery (NYC), Center for Photographic Arts (California), SITE: Brooklyn, The Rockport Art Museum, CPAC, Denver and The PH21 Contemporary in Budapest. Her work has been featured in multiple publications and she is a 2019 nominee of reGENERATION 4: The Challenges of Photography and the Museum of Tomorrow. Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland. Emerging Artists to Watch.

Donna Garcia has a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Virginia Jackson Carr is an artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in studio art from The University of Alabama in 2011. She is currently a graduate student at Savannah College of Art and Design/Atlanta pursuing a Master of Fine Arts Degree in photography.

Prior to enrolling in the graduate program at SCAD she worked at Whitespace Gallery. Her work has been exhibited at The Center for Civil and Human Rights: Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Whitespace, Atlanta Photography Group (APG), Gallery, Garcia/Wilburn Gallery and SCAD/Atlanta Open Studioevent. Using traditional photographic processes, her work explores themes of family, memory, place and home.