Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Founders Of The Society Of Animal Artists

Guido R. Borghi (1903-1971)             Patricia Allen Bott (1912-1994)
In 1958, Patricia Allen (Bott) and Guido Borghi assembled an exhibition of fellow artists that regularly met at the Bronx Zoo in New York City to sketch and paint the animals from life. The exhibition, Animals In Bronx Zoo, was a resounding success with the public. As a result of this enthusiasm, Patricia and Guido decided to form an organization of likeminded artists for fellowship, encouragement, and exhibition opportunities at Burr Galleries,  as well as other NYC venues.

Pat gave the fledgling society her all, and like a mother hen, she carefully nurtured relationships with each of the artists. For the first few decades, it was Pat that produced all the newsletters and replied to almost all correspondence. She also worked at the prestigious Grand Central Art Gallery, which exposed her to professional animal and wildlife artists beneficial in building the Society of Animal Artists  (SAA) membership.  

The initial shows of the SAA were held at Burr Galleries (Founded by Pat's father) pictured above and below. The first exhibition in 1960 was sponsored by the Bronx Zoo.

Due to the high cost of rent, exhibitions were moved to Grand Central Art Galleries starting in 1964, which contributed to the continued growth, exposure and prestige of the Society. Pat arranged the traveling shows for the SAA from 1960 to 1972 and served on the SAA Board the remainder of her life, including positions as Secretary, and Treasurer.

Two of Pat's field sketches from Africa

Pat received little to no formal training in art. She was heavily influenced by her father, George Brainerd Burr's impressionistic style with bold brushstrokes and color. She continued to enjoy working from life at the Bronx Zoo during her lifetime, where she also served for a time as a volunteer, even having a cub at the zoo named after her.

Like Pat, Guido was inspired and taught by his father. Living nearby, he also loved to draw and sculpt animals from life at the Bronx Zoo. He was adept at oil painting including murals, he taught sculpture and painting and had his work featured in museum exhibitions around the United States.  

Two of Guido's sketches

Special thanks to historical information provided by Harriet E. Phillips (SAA Secretary 2005) and research provided by SAA Executive Director Wes Siegrist from the Society's archives.

I'm looking forward to sharing more historical insights about the SAA over the coming months celebrating our 60th Anniversary!

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Society Of Animal Artists Celebrates 60 Years

SAA artists at the 1980 Exhibition/Convention in San Antonio, TX

This year is an exciting one for the Society of Animal Artists! Founded in 1960, the organization will celebrate its 60th Anniversary this year, so I thought it a perfect time to take a look back in time. Below are several different photos from the past of current and late SAA members and their works. I challenge you to take a close look at each one and see if you can guess the mystery artist. The correct answers are located at the bottom of the blog post, so you can see how well you did. 

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The mystery artist is the gentleman on the left
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The mystery artist is the gentleman standing on the left

1. Wayne Trimm
2. John Ruthven
3. George Luther Schelling
4. The late Richard Sloan
5. Al Gilbert
6. Guy Coheleach

So . . . How did you do? I'm looking forward to sharing many more interesting photos and facts about the SAA's rich history, as well as our founding members, with you in future posts throughout this year, as we celebrate our 60 years in the making!

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Hearts Of The Society of Animal Artists

Although the organizational body of the Society of Animal Artists currently has over 500 members from around the world, it's the SAA Presidents that are the real heart of the organization. In 1958, a group of artistic friends that regularly gathered to paint and sketch the animals at the Bronx Zoo decided to hold an exhibition highlighting their work rendered from the zoo. The public reaction to the exhibition at Burr Galleries was overwhelmingly positive. So much so, two of the friends decided it was time to form an organization to continue upon the success and promote the genre of wildlife art. They founded the Society of Animal Artists in 1960. 

From the inspiration of the founders to the present day, the SAA has been guided by nine dedicated individuals, who have graciously set aside their personal ambitions to focus on helping their fellow artists. I'm sharing with you a little bit about each one of these special people below. and have been fortunate to personally know six of them and experience their warm personalities and dedication to the SAA.

Patrica Allen Bott & Guido Borghi (Founders) 1958-1960

From March 30th through April 12th, 1958 "Animals In Bronx Zoo" featured the works of Walter Addison, Patricia Allen (Bott), Joseph Bell, Rosa Bonheur, Guido Borghi, Joseph Boulton, Paul Bransom, Berta Briggs, Benda Frey, Elisabeth Rungius Fulda, Charles Hafner, Harry Hoffman, William R. Leigh N.A., Ugo Mochi, Carl Rungius, Lloyd Stolper, Nell Van Hook, Clement Weisbecher, Allen Williams, and William Wilson. Many of these artists were founding members of the Society.

Founder Guido Borghi was active on the SAA Board of Directors until the early 1970s. Founder Pat Bott was active until 1993, additionally serving as secretary and treasurer.

Elizabeth Rungius Fulda 1960

Painter Elisabeth Rungius Fulda served as president only one year but worked on the Board until 1967. She came to America in 1905 to join her brother Carl who had been living there for ten years. Under his guidance, she did artistic animal studies at the Bronx Zoo.

Paul Bransom 1961 – 1976

Painter Paul Bransom designed the SAA Catasus logo and served the SAA until 1978. Paul enjoyed the rare privilege of a studio at the Bronx Zoo where he did much of his early work.

Albert Earl Gilbert 1977 – 1983

Painter Albert Earl Gilbert worked with the SAA board from 1974 until 1985. In addition to being the president, he also served as a vice-president for the SAA. Albert exhibited in 17 SAA Annual Exhibitions.  He would have been the first to be recognized as a Distinguished Signature Member.  A designation later adopted by the Society to recognize those artists whose work was juried into 15 or more Annual Exhibitions.

Joseph Vance, Jr. 1984 – 1994

Joe Vance was a painter who began serving with the SAA Board in the 1970s. He was active until 2015 when he graciously became an Emeritus Board member to make room for others. He continued to give advice and was valuable to the SAA with his foresight to save our historical documents. Joe also served as a treasurer for the SAA. He was the first SAA president to receive an Award of Excellence (the SAA's highest artistic honor). Joe was a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions. He was additionally recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2005 for his years of devoted service to the SAA and a lifetime of achievement in the genre of animal art.

Charles Allmond, III 1995 – 2000

Sculptor Charles Allmond worked with the SAA Board from 1991 to 2012. Charles received seven awards including six Awards of Excellence in the SAA Exhibitions.  He was the first and only SAA president to have the honor of Master Signature Member bestowed upon him. He was additionally honored to be recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007.  Like his predecessor Joe, Charles exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions and was also a Distinguished Signature Member.

Francis Sweet 2001 – 2003

Fran specializes in scratchboard and was active with the SAA Board from 1999 to 2003. Fran worked with current Executive Director Wes Siegrist to create the SAA's first website in 2001. He received seven awards in SAA Exhibitions including four Awards of Excellence. He was recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007 and also achieved Distinguished Signature Member exhibiting in 21 Annual Exhibitions.

Leslie Delgyer 2004 – 2008

Leslie is known for her pastels and served on the SAA Board from 1988 until 2015. In addition to being president, Leslie served a long time as an assistant secretary and later as secretary to the Board.  She also exhibited in 15 Annual Exhibitions and achieved Distinguished Signature Membership.

Diane Mason 2008 – 2013

Diane works both in sculpture and scratchboard and has served on the SAA Board since 2005. In addition to being president, she has served as vice-president and treasurer, where she still currently serves. Diane has received two awards in SAA exhibitions for her sculpture and graciously sponsored awards for years. Diane's husband Bob, became the SAA's first Executive Director in 2010. They both maintain the SAA's financial stability.

Reneé Bemis 2014 – to Present

Reneé specializes in bronze sculpture and has worked with the SAA Board since 1995.  She was our longest-serving treasurer prior to assuming her current role as president.  She has received three awards in SAA exhibitions and has graciously sponsored a purchase award with her husband, Brian, for many years. Reneé is a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 25 Annual Exhibitions to date.

Altogether, over 100 people have served on the SAA Board representing close to 900 artists!   These amazing people highlighted above have not only held a diverse group of worldwide artists together,  but have inspired them to collectively achieve something better.  Without these few leaders, the SAA would never have become the world's foremost association of wildlife artists.  It's exciting to see what the future holds for the SAA, and we're excited about returning to our roots at the Bronx Zoo in 2020 as part of our 60th Annual Opening Weekend festivities!

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Society of Animal Artists Video Highlights from the 59th Annual Exhibition

I've put together for you, a short video showcasing the many exciting highlights during the Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition opening weekend at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, TX this past September. So if you weren't able to attend and join in on the fun, this is your chance to see what you missed!

This year the prestigious SAA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to most deserving SAA Distinguished Signature Member John Seerey-Lester! The award was given to him by SAA member Matthew Hillier, who gave a most informative and entertaining introduction for this amazingly talented artist.  Here's a video of Matthew's introduction and John's touching acceptance of this prized award. 

While several SAA members demonstrated during the weekend, as well as participated in talks and helped with the community mural project, a highlight was an interview with Master Signature Member, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen. SAA member Terry Miller did a wonderful job interviewing Carel, delighting the audience with insights from Carel's creative process, while they also kept the audience laughing much of the time.  Here's an edited video showcasing highlights from Carel's delightful interview.

There are several other videos on the SAA YouTube channel as well for you to enjoy, and more will be added in the future.
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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA


Friday, September 27, 2019

59th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists Opening Weekend

Including participating SAA artists and guests, 375 people attended the opening for the Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition at the beautiful Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio recently! The picturesque museum sits nestled among grand cypress trees lining the historic Riverwalk, where the numerous trees and lush gardens all about give one a feeling of being in an oasis, making it a real treat to visit indeed!
While several artists, including myself, spent Thursday at the San Antonio Aquarium getting up close and personal with lemurs and other delightful critters, most SAA members and their guests arrived at the Marriott Hotel later that afternoon in time to attend the opening that evening. The reception was well attended and the museum was packed with excited attendees and patrons!  
Opening remarks were made by Michael Duchemin, Ph.D., the Briscoe’s Director, and SAA President Reneé Bemis. This year’s SAA student scholarship recipients were announced and we all enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  Then came the awaited time to view the exhibition which was arranged beautifully and an absolute inspiration to see in person!
The next morning a caravan consisting of dozens of wildlife artists, headed to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch anticipating another great day! We made many animals very happy as our entourage tossed out piles of food while slowly driving along the scenic loop road. Thankfully it had cooled off some that morning and there was a delightful breeze as we went along feeding wildlife and taking numerous photos. I'm quite sure the animals thought for sure the paparazzi had invaded!
The group enjoyed a delicious and fun lunch at the restaurant located on the ranch with many of us taking another drive-through afterward.  It’s a wonderful park where you can certainly get up close and personal with their numerous resident animals while allowing great opportunities for taking perfect reference photos... a delight to wildlife artists indeed!
Most of us spent our free time visiting historic landmarks, swimming in the hotel pool, and strolling along the picturesque riverwalk nearby, and Friday evening at the hotel, we had a great time hanging out and relaxing during the pizza party and game night for the attending artists. The game "Who am I?" gave attendees a chance to guess the mystery artists, after Executive Director Wes Siegrist read aloud different artist's answers to a few unique questions, giving us a chance to get to know one another better.
The next day was abuzz with numerous activities, starting with the SAA members meeting, and after lunch, we were treated to a most insightful and entertaining interview with SAA Master Signature Member Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen.
SAA Board and Distinguished Signature Member, Terry Miller, interviews Carel.
The afternoon was filled with SAA artist demonstrations, live bird presentations and a community mural project in which SAA artists helped the kids paint. The public poured in and the Briscoe Museum had a tremendous turnout for the various activities and viewing of the SAA exhibition, and a flurry of activities kept everyone quite busy all day!
SAA Executive Director and Distinguished Signature Member, Wes Siegrist alongside SAA Signature Member Robin Huffman having fun painting with the kids!
SAA Signature Members, Cynthie Fisher, Kelly Radding and Tiffany Miller Russell demonstrated their techniques and many tried their hand at scratchboard!
That evening the air was filled with abundant conversation and laughter during the Annual Awards Banquet, and it was decided that Wes had chosen wisely with the caterer, as the food was truly delicious!
Following dinner, SAA Distinguished Signature Member John Seerey-Lester was awarded the coveted Lifetime Achievement award by the Society.  This amazingly talented artist, who has achieved so much throughout his career as an artist, even being Knighted at one point, brought tears to the eyes of many, as he graciously spoke of his love for the SAA in accepting his award. Afterward, this year's award winners were announced and can be viewed on the SAA website by clicking here.
John brought abundant laughter too in his acceptance speech (shown with his wife Suzie)
While attending board members including myself, spent the day in the SAA Board meeting, a group of artists got a chance to visit Bracken Cave located near San Antonio. With more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, it's home to the world's largest bat colony, and I'm sure made for an awesome experience for those able to go!
The SAA would like to extend a HUGE thank you to the amazing Briscoe Western Art Museum for hosting the SAA’s 59th Annual Exhibition, and to the friendly staff that made it such a wonderful weekend for so many of us!
I'm currently working on producing a video featuring the exhibition at the Briscoe Museum and numerous highlights from all activities that took place during the memorable weekend and will share it on next month's blog.
Until Next Time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA