Tuesday, November 21, 2017

57th SAA Tour at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium


The 57th Annual members' show of the Society of Animal Artists 
is now open:

November 18, 2017 - January 7, 2018
Dubuque, IA

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Brian Jarvi’s AFRICAN MENAGERIE is a traveling museum exhibition of epic scale, 15 years in the making.  The centerpiece of the exhibition was unveiled for a preview on September 16, 2017 at The Reif Center for the Performing Arts, in Grand Rapids, MN, near the artist's home and studio.  Over 800 people attended the standing-room-only event.

Click here for a video interview with Brian Jarvi:  https://storyboardfilmsmn.wistia.com/medias/66yk27okbu

The centerpiece of Brian Jarvi’s AFRICAN MENAGERIE is comprised of seven interlocking panels, housed in rich walnut cabinetry that form a sweeping, grand panorama 32 feet wide by 14 feet high, depicting the African savannah and the animal kingdom contained therein. Over fifty related research sketches and mixed media studies (approximately half of the artist's output for the project), many of them large, surround the panorama.

Brian Jarvi, who is an award-winning member of The Society of Animal Artists, is widely recognized among the very best painters of African wildlife today.  His concept for ”African  Menagerie" was spawned from early childhood memories and fascination with both living collections  of  wild  animals, and paintings from the  distant  past  portraying  large  varied  groups  of exotic creatures.  In  his  "Menagerie,"  the  gathering  of  an incredible   array  of  wildlife  is  set against  a  grand  panoramic  backdrop  of  the  receding  snows  atop  Mount Kilimanjaro.  All of Africa's icons including the Elephant,  Leopard, Giraffe, Rhino, Hippo, and Zebra mingle  with  such  exotics  as  Bongo,  Okapie,  and  Mandrill, which gaze directly at viewers, in a way that reveals the artist's subtext for the exhibit, namely an Inquisition of Homo sapiens and the plight of threatened and endangered wildlife species.

The project’s storyline was calculatingly intended to dramatize the urgency of the moment to save not  just  the  great  iconic  species  of  Africa,  but  also wildlife  across  all of our shrinkingly, diverse, environmentally-threatened planet.

In  preparation  for  the  creation  of  "African  Menagerie,"  Jarvi created more  than  100  studies  in pencil,  charcoal,  monochromatic  oils,  mixed  media  as well as  major  full-color  oils  of a  multitude  of  species, six of  which  have  been  juried  into  major  exhibitions  including  The  Annual Exhibition of the Annual Exhibition of the prestigious Society of AnimalArtists. 

Documenting the project will be a coffee-table book by Todd Wilkinson, author of such books as Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, and Kent Ullberg: Monuments to Nature. The book is pending publication by Rizzoli Publications, New York.
The complete exhibition of AFRICAN MENAGERIE is scheduled to premiere at The Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University, KS from October 1 to December 21, 2017; and tour from  January 20 to April 5, 2018 at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, NJ in the New York City Metropolitan area; and from April 26 to July 15, 2018 to Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH. Additional Venues are pending. 

Photography Credit: Steven M. Tiggemann, TiggCreative
All Works 2017 © Brian Jarvi
Tour Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


On Display June 3 - September 3, 2017
(about an hour and one-half by car West of Washington, D.C.)

Photos Courtesy of: Anita Baarnes

Greetings SAA Members!

The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) is excited to announce we are gearing up for tomorrow’s opening of Art and the Animal! The MSV is the final stop on the exhibition’s 2016–17 tour. For more about the exhibition’s display at the MSV, see the media release HERE.

Art and the Animal will be on view in the MSV Changing Exhibitions Gallery from June 3 through September 3, 2017. We would love to have you visit as our guest and see the MSV installation of Art and the Animal. Please introduce yourself as one of the exhibition’s artists at the front desk and your admission to the MSV will be on the house.

Just minutes from I-81 (901 Amherst St, Winchester, VA), the MSV includes galleries, seven acres of gardens, and the Glen Burnie House. The MSV is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. On Wednesdays through August 30, extended summer hours until 8 p.m. are in effect (thanks to corporate underwriting MSV admission is free to all every Wednesday).

We hope to see you at the MSV!

Nancy Huth
MSV Deputy Director, Arts & Education

Above: MSV Director of Exhibitions Corwyn Garman installs Brute Force, a sculpture of an African black rhino by Mick Doellinger, SAA (Fort Worth, Texas). Photo by Rick Foster.

Monday, April 10, 2017


"I first read Birds of the World illustrated by Arthur Singer at age 8 in Sri Lanka. I saved my pocket money for one year to purchase it, it was my very first bird book. It so inspired me and directly affected my attention to details and devotion to ornithological art."

Gamini Ratnavira
Artist, Illustrator and Naturalist 


Authors: Sons, Paul Singer, Alan Singer
Layout and Design: Paul Singer
Introduction, David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Publisher, Rochester Institute of Technology Press
Release Date: Late May/Early June

 Introduction Excerpt

I am old enough to have professionally known Arthur Singer during his lifetime, and, though that was long ago, young enough to still remember him. I first met Arthur Singer in 1977, when he attended the opening reception of the exhibition that would become known as Birds in Art.  At the time, Arthur was 60, I was 25.  Today, I remember Arthur Singer as an artist whose strongest works displayed the subtlest of tonalities and a beauty of patterned repetition, and as an artist situated squarely in mid-twentieth-century aesthetics, enterprise, and ideology when it comes to the art of natural history.

Arthur Singer (1917-1990) enrolled at the Cooper Union Art School in 1935 and graduated in 1939.  Singer remained in art school through the Depression, only to have World War II stymie his career… but only briefly and in a way that contributed to his artistic development: in the army he spent 3½ years designing camouflage for tanks, trucks, and other field equipment for the military campaign in North Africa.1

After the war, Arthur Singer returned to New York to work as an art director in a commercial advertising firm where he’d worked after graduation before the war, and briefly to Cooper Union to teach. In the early 1950s, he started doing free-lance work, including illustrations for nature articles in Sports Illustrated. His first big break in bird illustration came when World Book approached him after bird artist, Don Eckelberry turned down an assignment due to competing commitments to update its section on ornithology in the encyclopedia. This led to a commission to illustrate Birds of the World, published by Golden Books that came out in 1961 and sold in the hundreds of thousands. A bibliography of other books illustrated by Arthur Singer followed including Birds of North America published by Golden (the first real challenge to the Peterson field guide), as well as others including Birds of Europe published by Hamlyn in 1968, all of which drove Arthur to work twelve- to thirteen-hour days to produce countless illustrations through the turbulent sixties and into the 1970s.

Like Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996), and others at the top end of the century’s bird artist hierarchy, Arthur Singer provided content to a burgeoning publishing industry hungry for quality illustrations for a print culture booming with commodities such as magazines, a range of books from tiny scientific field guides to large juvenile picture books and encyclopedias, and collector prints, stamps, and plates.2

Arthur Singer’s illustrations contributed immensely to public education and enjoyment of the natural world at a time when the environmental movement would reach its zenith. His concern for the environment was both shaped and fulfilled by public and private conservation initiatives, not the least of which was major legislation such as the Endangered Species Act.

pages from "Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master
Because Arthur Singer’s art differed from that of predecessors like Fuertes and Peterson, and from many of those in the next generation, he was able to distinguish himself as an individual artist with a signature style.  Whereas as the crop of younger artists coming out of commercial illustration were practicing a new, photo-realist (some would say feather-counting) aesthetic, Singer took a more classical, old-school approach, relying instead on a palette of muted colors and soft, fluid brushwork, but still imbued his work with a modern sense of design.  As one art critic wrote, “His subtle instinctive often mute color harmonies are unmistakable. But one is uniquely conscious of an overall design in his carefully thought out compositions—a dead giveaway of his early graphic design experience.”3

When asked if he worked differently when painting on assignment versus for the fun of it, Arthur answered, “On an assignment, I may make many careful progressive drawings before arriving at the final concept. But my watercolor landscapes may have no wildlife in the scene, and I enjoy the luxury and risk of the happy accidents that are the special delight of that medium.”4

pages from "Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master
My personal feeling about the easel paintings that Arthur Singer submitted for museum exhibitions is that they gave the impression of ease, much like a great performance by a virtuoso musician who makes his or her technique look easy to the point of being imperceptible compared to the beauty of the moment.5  I think it is fair to say the same thing about the art of Arthur Singer. 

David J. Wagner, Ph.D.  
Author, American Wildlife Art
Chief Curator, David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
Tour Director, Society of Animal Artists


1 Abbott Thayer (1849–1921), mentor of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, literally invented camouflage art in service of World War I.
2 David J. Wagner, “SLEWAPS: Signed Limited Edition Wildlife Art Photolithographs” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, published by University Microfilms International Dissertation Information Service, 1999).
3George Magnan, “Arthur Singer: In the Path of Audubon,” Today’s Art and Graphics 29, no. 8, (August 1981).
5A metaphor that I believe Arthur Singer would have appreciated, since he was a real jazz aficionado.

Friday, March 17, 2017

L’art et l’Animal

 Photographies d’artistes: Jocelyn Russell, Debbie Stevens, John Baumlin, Brian Jarvi, Kim Diment.

 L’art et l’Animal 

L’Art et L’Animal est l’exposition phare de La Société des Artistes Animaliers et a été présentée dans plus de 50 lieux au cours des 50 dernières années, y compris des musées, des zoos et des centres d’art, culturels et scientifiques aux États-Unis et au Canada. 

POUR INFORMATION, CONTACTEZ: 414-221-6878; Davidjwagnerllc@yahoo.com ou visitez davidjwagnerllc.com 

Membre de l’Alliance Américaine des Musées et du Conseil International des Musées

La Société des Artistes Animaliers 

La Société des Artistes Animaliers est considérée dans le monde entier comme l’association d’artistes la plus prestigieuse consacrée au thème des animaux dans l’art. La Société des Artistes Animaliers a été fondée en 1960. Son siège social est situé dans l’historique Salmagundi Art Club sur la Cinquième Avenue à New York. Les membres de la Société viennent d’Afrique, d’Asie, d’Australie, d’Europe, d’Amérique du Nord et d’Amérique du Sud. 

La mission de la Société des Artistes Animaliers est de promouvoir l’excellence dans la représentation des animaux, domestiques ou sauvages, dans l’art. Au cours des 50 dernières années, les oeuvres créées par les membres de la Société des Artistes Animaliers ont établi de nouveaux standards d’excellence artistique dans les Beaux-arts. 

L’Art et l’Animal 

L’Art et l’Animal est l’exposition phare de La Société des Artistes Animaliers. L’Art et l’Animal se réfère à la fois à l’exposition annuelle de la Société des Artistes Animaliers, et à la tournée de l’exposition itinérante qui est générée à partir de l’exposition annuelle. Le réputé expert en Art sur la faune et auteur de l’Art Américain sur la Faune sauvage, Dr. David J. Wagner, sert en tant que directeur de tournée pour l’Art et l’Animal. En tant que tel, il est responsable de l’organisation annuelle des expositions, de la tournée et de la gestion de l’exposition itinérante. L’Art et l’Animal a été présentée dans plus de 50 lieux, dont des musées, des zoos et des centres d’art, culturels et scientifiques en Amérique du Nord au cours des 50 dernières années. Seul le meilleur de l’art animalier est sélectionné pour l’Art et l’Animal. Par conséquent, il est extrêmement difficile, et donc prestigieux, pour les artistes d’avoir leur travail artistique accepté dans l’exposition. 

Associant l’histoire naturelle et les beaux-arts de manière créative, les membres de la SAA concourent pour que leur travail soit inclus dans les expositions annuelles choisies par un jury composé de membres de la SAA qui se réunissent au Salmagundi Club à New York chaque printemps. En outre, un jury décernant les récompenses, composé d’experts distingués avec les qualifications les plus importantes possibles qui ne sont pas membres de la SAA, est chargé, avec la difficile tâche, d’examiner les expositions annuelles dans le but de reconnaître les plus hautes réalisations et de décerner des prix aux artistes respectifs. Les artistes qui ont remporté cinq prix ou plus se voient attribuer le statut spécial de “Membre avec une signature de Maître,” ce qui les exonère de passer par les futures sélections du jury et leur travail figure automatiquement dans les Expositions annuelles. Parmi les artistes actuels et actifs, on peut citer: Charles Allmond, Chris Bacon, Gerald Balciar, Robert Bateman, Burt Brent, Carel P. Brest van Kempen, Guy Coheleach, Walter Matia, Léo E. Osborne, Sherry Salari Sander, Kent Ullberg et Sue Westin. 

La première de l’Exposition annuelle et la tournée 

L’exposition annuelle de la Société des Artistes Animaliers contient généralement plus de 120 oeuvres de peintures, dessins et sculptures. L’exposition itinérante l’Art et l’Animal est composée d’environ 45 peintures et dessins et de 15 sculptures. Chaque automne, une toute nouvelle exposition l’Art et l’Animal est choisie dans l’exposition annuelle pour représenter la SAA en tournée. Les sites de la tournée comprennent généralement un mélange à parts égales d’institutions artistiques et d’histoire naturelle. Par exemple, après sa première à l’Institut d’Histoire Naturelle Roger Tory Peterson à Jamestown, NY, l’Itinéraire de la tournée 2005-2006 comprenait le Musée d’Art Hiram Blauvelt à Oradell, dans la grande région métropolitaine de New York; Le musée du désert de Sonora Arizona à Tucson, AZ; et le musée d’art de Canton dans l’Ohio. En Septembre 2010, le zoo de San Diego a organisé une Journée spéciale de la Société des Artistes Animaliers en conjonction avec la première de l’exposition annuelle du 50e anniversaire au Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de San Diego. L’exposition annuelle de 2016 a été organisée par le Musée des sciences naturelles de Houston. 


SCULPTURE EN EXTÉRIEURE—De 2002 à 2007, la Société des Artistes Animaliers a organisé une sélection annuelle de grandes sculptures monumentales en plein air pour une exposition au siège de la Société du National Geographic à Washington, DC. Les sculptures de la Société des Artistes Animaliers peuvent être exposées à l’extérieur dans d’autres institutions. 
LE BÉNÉFICE DES EXPOSITIONS—La Société des Artistes Animaliers a organisé des expositions avantageuses comme celle organisée depuis de nombreuses années pour profiter du parc d’état de MacArthur Beach à Palm Beach, en Floride, et d’autres. 
PROGRAMMES ÉDUCATIFS—tels que les signatures de livres et les conférences de l’auteur américain David J. Wagner, Ph.D. sont disponibles.

Monday, February 6, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Reflections on Michael C. Tobias’s and Jane Gray Morrison’s Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in theAnthropocene

BOOK REVIEW:  Reflections on Michael C. Tobias’s and Jane Gray Morrison’s

Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in theAnthropocene

Some people are just born with more energy than others.  No doubt Michael C. Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison are among them.  How they manage to produce the volume of work they do is beyond me.  In addition to serving as President and Executive Vice President respectively of the NGO, Dancing Star Foundation, which focuses on international biodiversity conservation, global environmental education, and animal protection, the couple has written over 50 books, and produced over 100 films.  But it’s not just the volume of their body of work that’s amazing.  It’s also the breadth of their knowledge and the depth of their thinking.  Their most recent book, Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in the Anthropocene, is a case in point.  It focuses on humanity’s relationship with other species from the earliest of time, when human activities first had a measurable impact on the Earth and it’s inhabitants, and forward through the course of the integrated history of humans and other species inhabiting the planet (aka per the authors, “The Others”).

If you are familiar with the work of Tobias and Morrison, you would expect a new book by the couple to be thick in description.  And this book is, both as etic and emic discourse.  I chose to focus on Chapter 2, “Our Conquest of Coevolution?,” and Chapter 11, “A North American Family: The Ecologies of Translation,” because the authors confided in me that they feel these are the book’s most radical chapters.  But I also lightly read from other chapters here and there including Chapter 1, which I found useful to grasp the authors’ lexicon of ecological philosophy and animal liberation science, subjects not as familiar to me as they should; and the Coda, which brings their theses full circle.  In the course of my read, I encountered head-spinning interpretation of tightly integrated contents ranging from histories and ethics of conquest amply supported by quantifiable data, irreverent musings about shortcomings of normal science, e.g. comparative zoology vis-à-vis reverence for and understanding of animals through aesthetic expression, blunt and passionate ideology, and even delightful, philosophical prose which occasionally bordered on the mindful pleasures of Thoreau or the effective, often anecdotal, writing style of Aldo Leopold and his penchant, like that of the authors for lists, or perhaps even Native American perspectives in literature and history such as those imbued in the affable trickster, coyote.  All of which gave me pause on more than one occasion, to look up from my copy of the book, smile, and ponder the book’s spiral structure, which I imagined as something akin to Max’s memorable line in Maurice Sendak’s book, when he “sailed off through the night, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are.”[i] The sectioning of the book, and its lexiconic vocabulary creates that kind of spiraling cadence, which is not only part of the charm of this book, but also an aide to a reader like me not schooled in the science of Anthrozoology.  Whereas I occasionally found myself challenged in sections where jargon and rich vocabulary was foreign, I would no sooner spiral out into the next section where familiar language and train of thought made for a connected read. 

 In the book’s Preface, that authors state, “At the book’s core is a singular proposition: Homo sapiens are a species that is failing, in contrast with nearly all those Others on Earth.  But our biological redemption is still possible. It will require unstinting kindness, personal humility, and sacrifice, and the awakening of the collective conscience in both ideal as well as pragmatic ways that can work to safeguard remaining biomes and individuals – the ultimate drivers of ecological success - in whatever near infinite time frames are possible.” [ii]

For Morrison and Tobias, sentiments expressed in Anthrozoology about The Others are not mere words.  Rather, they have been tantamount to lifestyle, as revealed in the autobiographical second half of Chapter 11, in which they recount the joys and lessons of life over the course of 30 years lived with Josie, a Yellow-Headed Parrot (Amazona oratrix) from Tres Marias Islands, Mexico.  In the chapter, Morrison and Tobias explain that of 22 known psittacine species in Mexico, 20 are threatened (An estimated 78,500 are captured annually at a 75% rate of mortality after capture!).  After a raft of psittacine facts and figures, the authors proceed to give voice to the parrot’s “kyaa-aa-aaah and krra-aah-aa-ow” in a dozen pages for those readers who might not otherwise infer meaning from the vocalizing of a parrot: “Josie: ‘Throughout my varied flight patterns, over a life now verging on one hundred of your years, I have heard it uttered by many learned people that we parrots display a greater linguistic range than any known bird-type. Indeed it is further alleged that we can wield more verb tenses, flamboyant adjectives, and past perfect syllogisms beyond that of any known species.  Frankly, this is a bit overstated . . .’” [iii] Though this humanizing device adds validity and charm to the book, I don’t want to give the misconception that Anthrozoology is sentimental.  To the contrary, it can be as ideologically blunt as anything you will read:  “Anyone who considers him or herself to be a conservationist and eats animals is a preposterous hypocrite, and a dangerous one because such contradictory actions enforce a template of behavior by example that easily turns to preconception, and further ladens biological opinion with the bias of great harm.”[iv]

Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in the Anthropocene is packed with example after example of attitudes, values, behaviors, and practices of human dominance toward animals across and throughout cultural history.  The catalogue of examples which Morrison and Tobias present of human inhumanity against animals is encyclopedic and impressive.   The book argues that unless humanity liberates itself from biological hegemony, human existence will self-destruct, but also that there is an antidote: communication.  In the authors’ own words: “. . . the crucial message that lives and breathes throughout the book: That our love and reverence of other organisms, yes, other species, and our humble efforts to somehow non-invasively engage with them, may be key to solving the crisis of the Anthropocene which, most noticeably, has translated into the Sixth Extinction Spasm in the history of life on earth, [v] a biospheric Holocaust occurring 24/7.” Throughout Anthrozoology, Tobias and Morrison reiterate their concern for the need for communication with other species.  In the process, the book’s dire yet hopeful core message establishes that the world of Homo sapiens and Others is full of bifurcated challenges and opportunities.   

Earlier, I mentioned that the spiral sectioning of this book reminded me of a line from Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.  But, another reminder, this time a picture instead of words, also stuck in my mind as an image or symbol of the spiral trajectory of Anthrozoology in the current context in which we live.  If you’ve ever seen a James Bond movie, I’m sure you know the image:  the rifled bore of a Walther PPK in each opening sequence.  Just as the bullet in Bond’s Walther PPK is given its accuracy by the spiral of its bore, so too do Morrison and Tobias confront bifurcation and inaction by establishing the escalating urgency of their rallying cry:
. . . This is a desperate time. These are depressing realizations but the evidence has quickly and abundantly mounted.  We are all in trouble. What is most distressing, and at the root of this accelerated truth of our waning durability, or rationale for even being allowed . . . to continue, is that we are also dragging all those other species and habitats down with us and in so doing, predicating the extinction of humanity itself. [vi]

Though Anthrozoology is a book about compassion, hope, and the promise of communication, I for one, felt the scales of my read tip toward pending danger given the pathetic state of current presidential politics.  In fact, I confess that there were times while I was reading this book, that I was unable to do so from a hopeful perspective.  (When I came across this line comparing humans to “The Others,” for example, it was next to impossible for me to read it without association:  “No other species has ever dared to massively behave so foolishly, narcissistically, angrily, so ruthlessly.”[vii] On the other hand, I found the authors’ skill at conveying the sense of joy and mystery from love and understanding of all species to be infectious and up-lifting.  

                  Questions about Anthrozoology remain in my mind:  Can the authors’ utopian ideals transcend a self-serving world that values short-term gain?  From a literary perspective, I wondered about the nature of the author’s collaboration.  How do they work?  Their voices are unified in the text, but I am curious about their research and writing methods, i.e. who does what?   It would be interesting to hear them talk about that in a seminar.  In any event, Anthrozoology is a challenging yet informative and very creative book; one that I imagine would engage and stimulate students, among others, in countless, unimaginable ways.
David J. Wagner, Ph.D.

David J. Wagner, is the President of David J. Wagner, L.L.C. , a limited liability corporation established in the state of Wisconsin for the principle purpose of producing and managing traveling exhibitions for display at museums and related art, cultural and scientific institutions in North America and abroad.  He previously served as a museum director for 20 years, and is an author with a long list of lectures and book signings. He also occasionally serves museums as a guest curator, and as adjunct faculty at colleges and universities. 

[i] Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, originally published by Harper & Row, 1963
[ii] Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in the Anthropocene, P. xv.  In a recent interview about the book, the authors went further, saying that  “. . .  unless we liberate ourselves from a 200,000 year-long biological hegemony that we have assiduously tried to maintain by dominating all other creatures, we will self-destruct, and soon (My emphasis.) January 13, 2017 Interview by Marc Bekoff https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201701/anthrozoology-embracing-co-existence-in-the-anthropocene

[iii] Ibid P. 314
[iv] Ibid P. 95
[v] Ibid P. xv
[vi]  Ibid P. 326
[vii]  Ibid P. 326