Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monumental Statements About Our World by M. Stephen Doherty

Monumental Statements About Our World
by M. Stephen Doherty
Former Editor-in-Chief of American Artist magazine and current Editor of PleinAir

In 1857, the great Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church unveiled his 40” x 90” painting of Niagara Falls. The fascination with and publicity about the painting brought out more than 100,000 people who each paid twenty-five cents to see what was then considered a colossal masterwork. That enthusiastic public response was not accidental or unexpected.

From the very beginning of his celebrated career, Church attracted attention to his work by creating large, blockbuster sized landscape paintings of exotic, unknown, and captivatingly dramatic locations. Some of those depictions were reports of what the artist actually discovered on location, and other paintings were imaginative compilations of the plant material, animals, volcanos, rivers, waterfalls, and people the artist sketched and painted when he made trips to Central and South America, Cuba, and Mexico. The challenges he set for himself in terms of both the physical and creative aspects of these projects were monumental.

Church was not the only great American artist who built his career on attention-getting, large-scale paintings. Albert Bierstadt filled massive canvases with dramatic storms, skyscraper sized waterfalls, and remote mountain landscapes; and some of the best wildlife artists of the 20th century, including Carl Rungius, created large, curved dioramas for natural history museums by referring to studies created on location in Africa, South America, Europe, and the United States.

The challenge of painting massive canvases didn’t originate with American artists. Long before, European masters like Rubens, Tintoretto, Delacroix, and Monet proved their talents and physical capabilities by filling cathedrals, palaces, and castles with series of large-scale paintings. Their murals, frescoes, mosaics, and canvases celebrated successful battles, conquests by a monarch, miracles performed by a saint, or wonders of the natural world. And while they brought attention to the events depicted in the works of art, they also elicited wide respect for the talented artists who accomplished such amazing artistic feats.

The challenges that brought out the best in artists of the past continue to inspire artists who have something important to say through their major works. One of today’s most gifted and dedicated American artists is preparing to celebrate the wildlife species in Africa on an unprecedented scale. Brian Jarvi has spent the past fourteen years realizing a dream grounded in his childhood fascination with collections of local animal species and informed by his lifelong studies of Africa. He will complete a series of seven large-scale, interlocking panels and related supporting studies that summarizes his understanding of life on the continent and his hopes for the future. Together, these thoroughly researched images will achieve the scale and impact of the monumental work of art executed by Church, Bierstadt, Rungius, or other historic masters. 

Brian Jarvi and Masai Chief

When Jarvi discusses his project, from its inception to its ultimate completion, it is clear he is a man of intellect, passion, talent, and perfection. “I’ve been studying, breathing, watching, eating, drawing and painting African images ever since my first trip to the continent in 1989,” he explains. “I’ve made a total of twelve trips there, each lasting from ten days to a full month, and I’ve hired drivers and Land Rovers to get me out into the field where I could learn about the animals, the people, and the environment. Sometimes, I went in search of specific locations and behaviors, and mostly I opened myself up to anything I could learn and experience. All of that comes into play as I conceive of drawings and paintings in response to what I have learned and what concerns me in terms of the fragile state of animals and their environment.”

The artwork resulting from this 25 year devotion to Africa falls into two general categories, both of which are in evidence in the exhibition of work related to the African Menagerie project. Some pieces are perceptive portraits of specific people, animals, and locations; and others are dramatic stories about the lives of those portrait subjects. That is, Jarvi creates images of individual tribesmen, lions, rhinos, leopards, and antelope as if he were painting commissioned portraits of African dignitaries. There is as much respect, love, and understanding of his subjects as there would be if he were painting portraits of family members or neighbors. He reveals both the unique personality and likeness of his subjects with such perceptive skill that viewers feel as if they have just been introduced to a living, breathing, resident of the earth.

While studying and portraying these individuals, Jarvi begins to develop concepts for paintings that might summarize his ideas and emotions and, at the same time, will engage viewers of his paintings in a broader story. In most cases, these concepts are only vaguely connected to a real event or image. It’s more likely that the story takes shape in Jarvi’s imagination, prompted by his thorough knowledge of Africa, his talents as an artist, and his gifts as a communicator.

For example, the painting Last Gladiators began as an idea that gradually took a definite shape as Jarvi combed through thousands of his own photographs, read through reference books, tried out dozens of compositional schemes, and created monochromatic studies of animals. Those studies were wiped out, repainted, wiped out again, and continuously adjusted until Jarvi knew he had a basic image that had pictorial impact and was accurate in terms of  the elephants’ anatomy, perspective, and attitude. Only then did he go through the long process of bringing the image to life with layers of oil colors.

Sometimes the concept for a painting comes from an image buried deep in Jarvi’s memory, as when he created Overlord. “About 25 years ago I saw a leopard perched in a tree with sunlight filtering through the lush vegetation,” Jarvi recalls. “It was such a captivating scene that it stuck with me for all those years even though it only lasted a few moments.  I started making sketches of how I might recreate those moments that said so much to me about the African environment and the life of the animal. I dug back to find some of the slides I had taken at the time, played with some oil sketches, and gradually developed an image that captured the impact and meaning of those distant memories.

“I spend every day thinking about my paintings, those that are in progress and those that are years from being realized, and I am always absorbed in the lifelong process of understanding the subjects I paint,” Jarvi says. “For example, I look through the schedule of television programs, the list of forthcoming books, and the newly produced documentaries to find those that might in some way relate to Africa. If the material is particularly informative, I review it over and over again until I have gained as much knowledge and inspiration from it as possible.”

Jarvi says that sketching with oil colors is actually a better way for him to evaluate a potential painting composition than working with graphite, charcoal, or pastel. “I like to flesh out an idea by painting in a dry brush manner using a soft brush and oil color pulled straight from a tube,” he says. “For me, that’s closer to the way I will eventually develop a painting than if I were to make a linear sketch or value studies in charcoal. Moreover, I can keep wiping off and reapplying one earth color until the sketch accurately captures the concept that has been whirling around in my head. I use the same technique when I move to a big panel and start developing the final painting because I like seeing the composition without color. It’s a way of testing the design and the accuracy of the depiction before I consider the colors.

“I’m never willing to stop when a painting is ‘good enough,’” Jarvi says in explaining his creative process. “Some paintings take me years to finish because I keep thinking of ways I can improve them. That’s especially true when I’m dealing with the drama of Africa wildlife because I have so much respect for the animals and for the people who view and collect my work. When I finally sign a painting, I expect to feel as though I have been living with live animals and learning everything I can about the way those specific creatures move, respond to situations, interact with each other, and exist within a changing environment. And if I have done that, I hope viewers of my finished paintings will have the same sense of connectedness, understanding, appreciation, and respect.

Preliminary Concept Rendering for Brian Jarvi's African Menagerie: The Inquisition



Dave and Gail Liniger, and their dog, Max       

 THE 2014-2015 ANNUAL EXHIBITION AND ART AND THE ANIMAL TOUR are largely due to individuals who have dedicated themselves and their resources to the Society of Animal Artists beginning with Dave and Gail Liniger, co-founders of The Wildlife Experience in Parker, Colorado.  Dave and Gail made a personal commitment of their considerable resources to the continuous display of exhibitions by members of The Society of Animal Artists in the name of art, conservation, and education at The Wildlife Experience beginning with the museum’s inaugural exhibition in 2002.  In September of that year, the Linigers celebrated the Grand Opening of The Wildlife Experience by hosting the premiere of the 42nd Annual Exhibition of The Society of Animal Artists.  Five years later, in 2007, The Wildlife Experience hosted the Society’s 47th Annual Exhibition.  And now, in 2014, The Wildlife Experience is again hosting the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, this time, the 54th.   But  that is not all that Dave and Gail Liniger have done for The Society of Animal Artists.  Far from it.  Thanks to their continuous support, The Wildlife Experience has displayed the Society of Animal Artists’ Art and the Animal traveling exhibition in each of the other years of the museum’s first decade.  And, The Wildlife Experience also hosted numerous other traveling exhibitions that have featured artworks by members of The Society of Animal Artists, including many that I have been involved with such as America’s Parks, American Birds - A Flight Through Time, Art of the Rainforest, The Art of Robert Bateman, Art of the Dive: Portraits of the Deep (inspired by Dave Liniger's own passion for scuba diving), Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, Blossom  ~ Art of Flowers; Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, Feline Fine: Art of Cats, LeRoy

The Wildlife Experience, Parker, CO, Founded by Dave and Gail Liniger
Neiman: A Retrospective, Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines, The Sea of Cortez, Kent Ullberg: A Retrospective, and others to come including Andrew Denman: The Modern Wild and Crocodilian Scratchboards by John Agnew.  Speaking from years of experience as a museum director, curator and tour director, I know of no individuals who have personally done more to showcase the work of The Society of Animal Artists than Dave and Gail Liniger. 
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in Oradell, New Jersey, is the first venue this year on the Art and the Animal Tour.  But The Blauvelt is not new to The Society of Animal Artists.  The Blauvelt was an Art and the Animal tour venue in 1998.  In 2003 and 2004, The Blauvelt hosted The Society’s 43rd and 44th Annual Exhibitions.  Under the leadership of James Bellis, Jr., who assumed the duties of President of The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation in 2010, The Blauvelt hosted  the 52nd Annual Exhibition in 2012, committed to be a tour venue in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and pledged to host  The 57th Annual Exhibition in 2017.  Since 1993, The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation has made Purchase Awards from The Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition for the purpose of building the permanent collection of The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum.  Recipients are as follows: 1991 Dennis Anderson, 1994 John Schoenherr, 1996 Walt Matia, 1997 Renee Headings and Wayne Trimm, 1998 Lanford Monroe, 1999 Terry Miller, 2000 Kent Ullberg, 2001 Walter Matia, 2002 Julie Chapman and Matthew Hillier, 2003 Daniel Smith, 2004 Pete Zaluzec, 2006 James Coe, 2007 Dino Paravano, 2008 Paul Rhymer, 2009 Matthew Hillier, 2010 Peter Clinton Gray and Stephen Quinn, 2011 Robert Bateman, 2012 Mick Doellinger and Cynthie Fischer, 2013 Kim Diment and Kathleen Partridge.  The Blauvelt has also maintained a robust artist-in-residence program which has included members of The Society of Animal Artists, and hosted any number of one-man shows including Ocean Life by Stanley Meltzoff, and the two-man show earlier this year of work by Guy Harvey and Kent Ullberg.
An individual who is responsible for bringing Art and the Animal now five times to the state of Missouri for display at The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar is Director, Jo Roberts.  In addition to the on-going display of work by members of The Society of Animal Artists, The Dunnegan has also hosted America’s Parks I and II which featured work by numerous members of The Society of Animal Artists several of whom received awards, and various other traveling exhibitions produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., for which I am also exceedingly grateful. 
I’ve often thought that true proof of success and a compliment to any businessman including one in the arts like me, is repeat business.  That is why I am so grateful to people like Dave and Gail Liniger at The Wildlife Experience, Jim Bellis, Jr. and his father before him at The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation, and Jo Roberts at The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art.  But without new business, it’s impossible to achieve growth.  And that’s why I am pleased all the more to add a new venue to the long list of previous venues which have hosted Art and the Animal over the years; one, I’m sure, that will be a source of great pride for members of The Society of Animal Artists: The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. Several individuals played a role in making the display of Art and the Animal at the NSLM a reality.  As early as 2009, Turner Reuter of Red Fox Fine Art in Middleburg, encouraged NSLM to host Art and the Animal, as would SAA member, Anita Baarns.  Curatorial Assistant, Hannah Reuter, and niece of SAA member Diana Reuter-Twining, subsequently advocated display of the exhibition at NSLM.  Advancement of display from concept to reality finally coalesced thanks to the initiative of Claudia Pfeiffer George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator, and Melanie Leigh Mathewes Executive Director, to whom I am now indebted.
I encourage all members of The Society of Animal Artists and anyone else interested in helping advance its mission and cause, to contact me with leads and suggestions for other new venues, so that I may continue the campaign to share the extraordinary outpouring of work that comprises the Society's Annual Exhibition and Art and The Animal Tour with new audiences far and wide into the future.
David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Tour Director, Curator, and
Author, American Wildlife Art


(Dates/Venues subject to change.)

The Wildlife Experience
August 23 - October 22,  2014
Parker, CO

The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum
November 15, 2014 - January 4, 2015
            Oradell, NJ

The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art
February 1 - March 15, 2015
Bolivar, MO

The National Sporting Library and Museum
April 17 - August 30, 2015
Middleburg, VA

(414) 221-6878; davidjwagnerllc@yahoo.com
David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Tour Director
Member, American Alliance of Museums; International Council of Museums


Producido por David J. Wagner, L.L.C.

Works by Robert Bateman and Bart Walter, Courtesy Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Para producir IMPACTO DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE, el curador/director del tour David Wagner seleccionó un diverso grupo de artistas que colectivamente con sus trabajos dieron forma y llenaron el Movimiento Ambientalista, un movimiento que ha ganado tracción en el último cuarto del siglo XX.  El empezó con artistas cuyos trabajos ya había exhibido previamente; artistas como el pintor canadiense, Robert Bateman y escultores, Kent Ullberg y Leo Osborne.  La exhibición presenta trabajos ambientalistas icónicos tales como Requiem for Prince William Sound, la elegía de Kent Ullberg para las víctimas del derrame de petróleo del Exxon Valdez en Alaska, el peor desastre ecológico hecho por el hombre de sus tiempos.  Incluye Still Not Listening, una escultura basada en un poema del mismo título por Osborne el cual expresa continúa frustración y furia tales como esa dirigida a la explosión de la torre petrolera de Deepwater Horizon el 20 de abril del 2010 y el subsecuente derrame en el Golfo de Mexico.  Incluye Carmanah Contrats, en el cual Robert Bateman expresa su preocupación por la pérdida de bosques de árboles ancestrales en el Noroeste Pacifico, contrastando bosques ancestrales y bosques imaginarios completamente talados en un estilo nuevo, postmoderno.  La primera en la “serie ambientalista” de 1989 de Bateman, “Carmanah Contrasts” surgió de un esfuerzo colectivo de artistas que se reunieron en la Isla Vancouver en British Columbia en 1989 para documentar la tala indiscriminada del bosque Carmanah, una área del arboles ancestrales.  Ellos acordaron publicar sus trabajos colectivamente y crear conciencia y resistencia a través del arte.  Otros artistas del IMPACO DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE, cuyos trabajos David Wagner ya había previamente exhibido incluyen Mick Meilahn cuyas esculturas del vidrio tratan con el impacto de los OGM (organismos genéticamente modificados), y el artista israelí, Walter Ferguson Israel, y su pintura apocalíptica que incluye la arriesgada planta de energía nuclear, y el artista de Michigan, Rick Pas, cuyas pinturas enigmáticas de aves atopelladas que había exhibido a mediados de los ‘80s.

Work by Julie Heffernan, Courtesy Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Mientras la exhibición y su pensamiento sobre ella se desarrollaban, Wagner paso a través de una re-examinación de su conocimiento sobre el arte ambientalista (así es como se refiere a él), e hizo descubrimientos propios y recibió introducciones a trabajos emocionantes por artistas quienes eran nuevos para el tales como la escultora japonesa Sayaka Kajita Ganz, y sus asombrosas instalaciones fabricadas de objetos encontrados; y el grupo de artistas representados por la galería Catharine Clark, de San Francisco, incluyendo el incomparable trabajo de Chester Arnold, Chris Doyle, Scott Greene, y Julie Hefferman.  Hay muchos más artistas de curso, quienes juntos abordan una plétora de otros problemas del medio ambiente cubriendo desde el desperdicio toxico hasta el impacto del calentamiento global en el ártico, el aire y contaminación del agua, hasta la perdida reciente de poblaciones de abejas, incendios forestales fuera de control, la invasión del desarrollo urbano en hábitat, y el comercio ilegal de vida silvestre, para nombrar a algunos.  Aparte, hay toda una gama de poderosa fotografía que el curador/director de tour David Wagner incluyó por su pura fuerza, amplitud y profundidad; fotografía por lideres incluyendo Edward Burtynsk; Robert Dawson; Peter Goin; Richard Misrach; Diana Sanchez; y Martin Stupich.  La lista completa de artistas exhibidos es como sigue:
(Por apellido alfabético)

Arnold, Chester, Sonoma, CA
Bateman, Robert, Fulford Harbour, BC, Canada
Burtynsky, Edward, Toronto, ON, Canada
Chapel, San Francisco, CA
Dawson, Robert, San Francisco, CA
deLeiris, Lucia, Watertown, MA
Denny, Drew, Guerneville, CA
Doyle, Chris, Brooklyn, NY
Ferguson, Walter W., Beit Yanai, Israel
Forman, Zaria, Brooklyn, NY
Freda, Britt, Burton, WA
Ganz, Sayaka Kajita, Yokohama, Japan (now USA)
Goin, Peter, Reno, NV
Greene, Scott, Bernalillo, New Mexico
Hackenberg, Karen, Port Townsend, WA
Harvey, Guy, Grand Cayman, BWI
Heffernan, Julie, Brooklyn, NY
Helsaple, Mary, Sedona, AZ
Johnson, Cole, Deposit, NY
Kingswood, Ron, Sparta, ON, Canada
Lebofsky, Lisa, Bronx, NY
Meilahn, Michael (Mick), Pickett, WI
Misrach, Richard, Berkeley, CA
Osborne, Leo, Anacortes, WA
Pas, Rick, Lapeer, MI
Robertson, Derek, Balmerino, Fife (Near St Andrews), Scotland
Sanchez, Diana, Bogotá, Columbia (now USA)
Santora, Carol, Kennebunk, ME
Stupich, Martin, Albuquerque, NM
Ullberg, Kent, Corpus Christi, TX
Walter, Bart, Westminster, MD
Woolf, Suze, Seattle, WA

(List subject to change.)

NOTA: La lista de arriba está sujeta a cambios; artistas adicionales pueden ser añadidos.

Uniéndose a otras en la larga lista de exhibiciones ambulantes producidas por David J. Wagner, LLC (http://davidjwagnerllc.com/exhibitions.html), IMPACTO DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE puede bien ser  la más singular poderosa de acuerdo con su curador y director de tour, David J. Wagner, de quien el clásico American Wildlife Art (http://american-wildlife-art.com), sirve como el libro de referencia estándar sobre el tema.

Environmental Impact Installation Photo, Courtesy Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Click here for more:

IMPACTO DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE se estrenó en el Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH el 1ro. de septiembre del 2013 con una lista estelar de sitios que siguen:


September 1 - October 31, 2013
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH

November 19, 2013 - February 4 , 2014
The R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, LA

February 22 - May 4, 2014
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI

May 24  - July 6, 2014
Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Jamestown, NY

August 1 - September 30, 2014
Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA

Oct. 25, 2014 - January 4, 2015
Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, VA

January 31 - April 26, 2015
Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC

May 16 - August 8, 2015
Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

September 1 - October 31, 2015
The Art Museum, SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam, NY

December 6, 2015 - January 17, 2016
Stauth Memorial Museum, Montezuma, KS

Fotografías de las obras de arte están disponibles en:


Para más información, póngase en contacto:

                                                David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
                        Curator/Tour Director
                        ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
                        David J. Wagner, L.L.C., Exhibition Tour Office
                        Milwaukee, WI 53202 USA
                        Office: (414) 221-6878
                        Email: davidjwagnerllc@yahoo.com
                        Website: davidjwagnerllc.com


Friday, October 17, 2014

Beyond Their Wildest Dreams! SAA Members Reflect On Their Historic Ongoing Tour of Paintings

Beyond Their Wildest Dreams!  SAA Members Reflect On Their Historic Ongoing Tour of Paintings

Exquisite Miniatures by Wes & Rachelle Siegrist

Artists dream of their work being seen outside of family and aspire to participate in public shows.  Juried exhibitions and galleries are considered a step up that ladder to success.  Inclusion into anything inside museums carries an added aura of success that might culminate into the dream of one day walking into a museum and seeing one’s own work filling an exhibition hall. Few artists achieve this while they’re living and even less do it while they are young in both years and career.  It happened to us! We knew we had made history.  To our knowledge, only a few living miniature painters had ever been featured in a solo museum exhibition and none to the scale achieved for us by our tour director.  That momentous start, back in 2010, exploded into the most successful touring exhibition of miniature paintings by living artists in history and it’s still going and growing!

The Siegrists with Dr. David J. Wagner, EXQUISITE MINIATURES Tour Director

In the summer of 2008, we were asked by Dr. David J. Wagner to consider allowing him to exhibit our miniature paintings in museums.  Knowing Dave’s reputation and success with other artists we enthusiastically said yes!  We knew from the start, that it would likely be years before something was scheduled, if at all, so we set ourselves in for the long haul. We were surprised when Dave called mere weeks later.  One of the nation’s top museums with collections of historic miniature paintings had requested our show!  We were scheduled to premiere at the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, LA in July of 2010.  It had been 25 years since the Norton staged their last exhibition pertaining to miniature painting, Portrait Miniatures in Early American History, 1750-1840, and they felt it was time to do another one featuring modern American miniaturists who had been featured in a variety of group exhibitions at the Norton over the years . . . the Siegrists! 

While we were still floating on cloud nine, Dave called with more news.  The West Baton Rouge Museum was also interested in our work.  Would we be able to stage a second concurrent exhibition of 50 more paintings?  Borrowing back nearly 50 paintings from collectors to augment our available work to comprise the varied content of the exhibitions was a herculean task.  It paled only slightly in comparison to the mountain of logistics associated with 100 paintings on exhibit!  Floating in the stratosphere now with two solo museum exhibitions on the horizon, Dave pushed us into space with the news that the works in Baton Rouge, LA would be going on tour!

 Staging a museum exhibition involves a lot of paperwork!


Presentations, lectures and workshops at venues on the tour

To date, EXQUISITE MINIATURES BY WES & RACHELLE SIEGRIST includes over 200 paintings, will be displayed 5,588 days in 21 exhibitions at 19 venues and has traveled thousands of miles across the country and back to 15 States!  And more venues are pending!

 Click here to view the EXQUISITE MINIATURES Exhibition overview
(Links to more photos, installation images and paintings are at the bottom of the page)


May 4 - July 25, 2010
R.W. Norton Art Gallery
Shreveport, LA


May 16 - July 31, 2010
West Baton Rouge Museum
Port Allen, LA


September 4 - November 28, 2010
Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure
Salina, KS

December 11, 2010 - March 13, 2011
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Tucson, AZ

April 16 - May 15, 2011
Dunnegan Gallery of Art
Bolivar, MO

June 10 - August 28, 2011
Museum of the Southwest
Midland, TX

September 17 - October 16, 2011
Yadkin Cultural Arts Center
Yadkinville, NC

November 5 - December 31, 2011
Dennos Museum Center
Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI

January 21 - March 21, 2012
San Diego Natural History Museum
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

May 15 - October 13, 2012
Nevada State Museum
Carson City, NV

November 15 - December 21, 2012
Yadkin Cultural Arts Center
Yadkinville, NC

January 10 - March 10, 2013
The ArtCenter Manatee
Bradenton, FL

April 7 - June 2, 2013
Museum of the Gulf Coast
Port Arthur, TX

August 10, 2013 - January 5, 2014
Kenosha Public Museum
Kenosha, WI

February 1, 2014 - April 6, 2014
The Wildlife Experience
Parker, CO

July 12, 2014 - November 7, 2014
Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
Jamestown, NY

December 1, 2014 - April 15, 2015
Steamboat Art Museum
Steamboat Springs, CO

September 4 - October 30, 2015
Yadkin Cultural Arts Center
Yadkinville, NC

November 4 – December 4, 2016
Dane G. Hansen Memorial Museum
Logan, KS

June 4 - September 3, 2017
Stauth Memorial Museum
Montezuma, KS

September 21 - December 21, 2017
Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center
Chadron, NE

EXQUISITE MINIATURES is available for display at art, cultural, and scientific institutions.  For tour and scheduling information, contact:

David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Curator/Tour Director
David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
Phone: (414) 221-6878

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Review of America's Parks II by Richard C. Brusca, PhD Executive Director, Emeritus, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

North America’s Wild Places in Fine Art
AMERICA’S PARKS II is an impressive array of 120 jury-selected pieces of art that celebrates the beauty and wonder of wildlife in North America’s protected places.  The primary theme of the show is parks of the Southwest (southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico), and both flatworks and sculptures are included.  The traveling component of the show is titled, “America’s Parks of the Southwest."
            Over 75 of the best nature artists in the country are represented in AMERICA’S PARKS II.  Six top awards went to John Agnew, Carel Brest van Kempen, Cheryl Price, Morton E. Solberg, Eva Stanley, and Carol Swinney, and Honorable Mentions went to 26 other artists.  But the overall quality of the entire show is phenomenal, and the jurors were surely challenged in their deliberations.  Both Agnew’s and Brest van Kempen’s top award-winning oil paintings grew out of a unique art experience arranged by David Wagner, in which 28 artists traveled from around the United States to San Carlos, Sonora (Mexico) for a week in the field.  That art expedition led to its own extraordinary show on the Sea of Cortez (the Gulf of California).  I was privileged to have been the naturalist on that expedition and daily watched as these incredibly creative people unleashed their passion and brought the local flora and fauna to life in photographs, paintings and sketches.
            This second AMERICA’S PARKS show organized by David Wagner is compelling to me for many reasons.  I happen to be a Southwest conservation ecologist, so the emphasis on the Southwest, and the Sonoran Desert in particular, is exciting and timely.  All six of the top awards were for pieces capturing the spectacular beauty of the Southwest, and 37 of the entries are from the Sonoran Desert Region itself.  There are few places in the world with such a high diversity of species and natural landscapes as the Sonoran Desert, from the stunning Sea of Cortez and Baja California Peninsula, to Sky Island mountain ranges and deep tropical canyons.  Nearly 2500 plant species have been recorded from the Sonoran Desert Region and, although there are no good estimates of animal diversity, nearly 500 bird species have been recorded from the Arizona portion of this great desert alone, suggesting that the total bird count for the Sonoran Desert Region is around 1000 species.  The high diversity of this region is due, in large part, to the fact that it is a maritime desert, receiving two rainy seasons annually, one being a summer monsoon season that brings moisture from the Sea of Cortez.  The Sea itself bisects the Sonoran Desert into two nearly perfect halves, Sonora and Arizona to the east, and the Baja California Peninsula to the west.  This great desert sea is home to well over 6000 described marine animals, including more than one-third of the world’s whale and porpoise species and five of the world’s six sea turtles (all of which are endangered).  The Sonoran Desert is also the only subtropical desert in North America, and we are blessed that it also houses more protected areas than any other similar-sized region in North America, including numerous Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.  But, the Southwest is also under siege, with the fastest-growing population in North America and being strongly impacted by climate warming.  It seems both fitting and urgent that these special, threatened wild places be emphasized in a natural history art show such as this.
            Many of the subjects in this show are species of special conservation concern in North America, including Gila monsters (captured by Priscilla Baldwin, Kim Diment and Eva Stanley), lesser long-nosed bats (Bryce Pettit), elegant terns (Anne Peyton), bighorn sheep (Beverly Abbott and Morten Solberg), brown pelicans (John Agnew), wild turkeys (George Bumann), roseate spoonbills (Anne Peyton), ferruginous pygmy-owls (Eva Stanley), leatherback turtles (Cathy Ferrell), and mangrove trees (Mary Helsaple).  Many of these threatened species are presented as bronzes, which greatly enliven the show.
            Not only is the lesser long-nosed bat an endangered species (both in the U.S. and in Mexico), it is a keystone species that makes a spectacular annual migration from southern Mexico to the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, following the spring blooms of columnar cactus that open from south to north, feeding on the nectar and fruit and, secondarily, pollinating and dispersing the seeds of the cacti.  The primary maternity roost for this nectar bat is in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, just south of the border from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (also a Biosphere Reserve), where 100,000 to 200,000 females give birth to that many young every May.  The return flight to southern Mexico, with young in tow, relies upon blooms of agaves, including the tequila agave, which also needs this bat for pollination.  Speaking as a cactus lover and tequila drinker, I thank you Mr. Pettit, for your exquisite sculpture of this very important keystone species.
            Eva Stanley’s wonderful sculpture of a ferruginous pygmy-owl is in its natural Sonoran Desert niche, a burrow in a giant Saguaro cactus.  Here, the owl pair mates and then the male brings the female her food for a month-long egg incubation, after which the two take turns feeding the hatchings for another month.  Sonoran Desert residents lucky enough to have nesting pygmy-owls in their backyard saguaros thus enjoy this lively “dance of the pygmies” for several months during the monsoon summer.
            Pokey Park’s beautiful kit fox is an oversize bronze that catches one’s eye as soon as the gallery space is entered.  These sleek, housecat-sized canids burrow year round in the Southwest, relying on cooler underground temperatures to survive the summer daytime heat.  They generally don’t need standing water, satisfying their needs with the moisture in their diet of rats, mice and rabbits.  Being strictly nocturnal, the presence of these rodent-controlling predators is usually recognized only from the many den holes that can pocket a desert valley floor.
            The leatherback is the largest living sea turtle, with shells reaching over 6 ft in length and weights exceeding 1750 lbs.  Unlike other sea turtles, these leviathans have leathery shells that are keeled on both top and bottom, enabling them to move through the water with great efficiency and speed, despite their size.  Cathy Ferrell’s unique bronze of a tiny hatchling leatherback captures the foam and sand world that this creature must traverse in its beach run to the sea.  This is the rarest sea turtle in the Sea of Cortez, and DNA (plus satellite telemetry) have shown that at least some leatherbacks in this region come from as far away as the western Pacific (e.g., Indonesia, Papua New Guinea).  Leatherbacks are in serious decline throughout their range, due to nesting beach degradation and egg poaching.
            Three artists in this show chose Gila monsters as their subject—two bronzes and one painting.  Easy to understand, given the charismatic habits and colorful sculptured skin of these giant lizards.  Gila monsters reach over 1½ ft in length, have red-orange-black beaded skin, and store water in fatty tissues in their plump tails.  They winter hibernate, but are active spring through fall when they consume large numbers of newborn rodents and rabbits, as well as the eggs of birds, snakes and other lizards.  They may consume 50 percent of their body weight in one feeding.  These magnificent neotropical lizards are one of only two venomous lizards in the world (the other is the Mexican beaded lizard).  The venom is used almost solely in defense, and only rarely in feeding.  Although generally slow and lumbering, when threatened this “monster” moves with lightening-like speed to clamp down on the aggressor (occasionally a human), grinding open a flesh wound through which the venom oozes into the victim’s body.
            Like the lesser long-nosed bat, elegant terns also undertake long-range migrations.  Every spring they fly from their winter homes in Peru, Ecuador and Chile to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.  Here, they breed mainly on a few protected islands in the Sea of Cortez.  These gorgeous seabirds are indeed elegant, in both appearance and behavior—they feed by plunge-diving for marine fishes, and males offer females their catch as part of the courtship ritual.
            This spectacular collection of art does not glamorize or idealize the threatened wildlife and wild places of North America.  Instead, it presents a broad palate of beautifully-executed portraits of some of the world’s most beguiling places and important threatened species.  And it does so with a dignity and decorum that inspires viewers and rekindles their reverence and respect for nature.
            AMERICA’S PARKS II premiered in Bolivar, Missouri, at the Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art, and from there traveled to The Wildlife Experience in Parker (Denver), and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson).  At the time of this writing, subsequent venues had not yet been determined.

Richard C. Brusca, PhD
Executive Director, Emeritus, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Research Scientist, University of Arizona