Signal Fire is an organization in Portland, Oregon, that “provides opportunities for artists and creative agitators to engage with our remaining wildlands. Our projects foster resilience, creative energy and interdisciplinary collaboration. We utilize public lands to advocate for equitable access, and protection of, wild and open places.” Last year, Zoe Keller participated in the organization’s Wide Open Studios visit to Klamath National Forest in Oregon. One of the drawings inspired by the trip is River Otter, showing the semiaquatic mammal swimming among the other species that inhabit its world. Armed with field notes and photographs as well as a library of field guides, Keller creates intricately detailed graphite drawings of the interrelationships of flora and fauna sometimes up to five feet wide. She often concentrates on endangered or even extinct species. Although the otter isn’t endangered, it is threatened by the diminishment of its habitat and by water pollution.
Ospreys were threatened with extinction in the 1950s and ’60s because of the widespread use of DDT. After the banning of the insecticide, the birds of prey made a comeback. Ospreys hover high over shallow water and plunge talon first to capture fish.
Les Perhacs is a sculptor whose work comfortably straddles realism and abstraction. He says, “Over the past 50 years, I’ve created
probably a thousand works...always inspired by nature due to my endless fascination but always compelled to go beyond obvious realism. Distilling the animal form and working on surface textures—deciding what to leave in and what to leave out—always with motion in mind.”
His bronze Osprey retains his modeling of the clay and contains enough detail to create a convincing impression of the majestic hawk about to capture its prey.
The gyrfalcon is the largest of the falcons and lives in the northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia. It eats primarily ptarmigan which it captures in midflight.
Ron Kingswood learned about nature and birds on hunting trips with his father in northern Ontario and continues to spend time in the field. For a period, he painted impressionist abstractions of the landscape. He now combines those techniques with more realistic representations and a command of color and complex compositions that celebrate negative space. He says, “Nature has always been the only teacher, not other individuals. There is a single universal content that we use which is shrouded in form. I tend to perceive nature as form and structure.”
Brian Mashburn combines the influences of both his Asian and American heritage, setting realist representations of wildlife in backgrounds that recall Chinese ink drawings. He attended Chinese language classes as a boy and attributes his love of the painted line to that experience.
Buffalo depicts an iconic American bison against a misty landscape that recalls the smog of China and the mists that appear in the mountains near his home in North Carolina. The mist barely conceals the encroachments of the industrial world, from railroad bridges to factories.
Throughout this special section, collectors will find wildlife works from a variety of talented artists, galleries and museums.
Wildlife artist Cynthie Fisher adores animals. Everything in her world revolves around her love and admiration for all creatures, heightened in part by her college studies in zoology and wildlife management, the artist says. She chooses to share this love through her vibrant, colorful paintings and scratchboards of species from all corners of the world. “I don’t copy photos but create my own unique composition that complements
what I’m trying to depict. I believe my collectors are looking for one of two things: a piece of art that represents a memory or a wish. And I love being able to fulfill that for them,” she says.
Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has a full schedule of events running alongside the annual Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, which includes displays of animal artwork. “We always endeavor to present a strong grouping of shows that have wide appeal to a large segment of art collectors. Of course, wildlife is a genre that is especially in high demand here in the Jackson Hole art market,” says gallery director Joan Griffith. Artists whose work will be showcased this fall include Adam Smith, Dustin Van Wechel, Jhenna Quinn Lewis, Sueellen Ross and Morgan Weistling.
Celebrating its 37th year this February, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
(SEWE), held in Charleston, South Carolina, showcases fine wildlife and sporting art. “The passionate effort to promote conservation worldwide through art unifies SEWE artists. Our artists are present with their work during SEWE, a distinct attribute of our show that educates collectors about the meaning behind the work,” says Natalie Henderson, SEWE art curator.
Featuring animal artwork from some of the most prominent American artists—like Georgia O’keeffe and John James Audubon—the National Museum of Wildlife Art welcomes more than 60,000 visitors through its doors each year. “The National Museum of Wildlife Art holds an unparalleled collection of fine art depicting wildlife with a focus on historic and contemporary American and European masters,” says Adam Harris, Joffa Kerr Chief Curator of Art. The museum, which was founded in 1987, houses more than 5,000 works of wildlife art.
“From famous figures who made their name and reputation exploring the region to wildlife who call the rugged West home, Western art has long paid homage to the people and animals that defined a nation’s
idea of what the American West is and was,” says Emily Wilson, curator at the
C.M. Russell Museum. The museum houses the collection of Leroy Strand, a veteran, philanthropist and avid collector of Western art. “The Leroy Strand Collection captures the essence of Montana and the American West,” Wilson says. Wood carver Don Woodard is excited to announce the opening of his new art studio and gallery, Don Woodard Artworks, in Broomfield, Colorado. The artist will be creating and displaying original relief wood sculptures and three-dimensional paintings, and will also showcase a wide range of accomplished artists, including Don Weller and Edward Aldrich. After retiring from a 43year career designing and building exhibits, Woodard says he is excited to be a fulltime artist, developing both his own ideas and creating commissioned work for others.
Mountain Trails Gallery Sedona provides collectors outstanding wildlife works from top Western artists across the country. “Whether
it’s in our great parks or out in nature, a wildlife sighting is uplifting. It brings us in touch with a sense of awe and wonder, how each species has its own system of survival and thriving. Our wildlife artists seem to capture that perfect moment of surprise or delight, a regal stance or just the power of nature that is expressed in their paintings or sculpture,” says director Julie R. Williams. Another gallery well known for representing talented wildlife artists, Wilde Meyer Gallery’s aesthetic is that of realistic animal portraits, where the animal is the primary focus, as well as pieces where creatures are blended into their natural habitats. Many of the artists whose works are displayed at the gallery create “abstract animals beyond realism with bold colors or drawing techniques, while still showing the essence of the animals they are portraying,” says gallery owner Betty Wilde.
The artwork of J.C. Fontecchio is that of impressionistic realism, with bold brushstrokes that capture the spirit of the fauna she depicts. “Wildlife artists offer up their own vision of the glory that surrounds us. The glory may be beautiful, unfamiliar, or even harsh, but the
vision these artists present is almost always real,” she says.
Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, houses a variety of wildlife artwork from esteemed artists, including the “colorful bird studies” of English artist Andrew Haslen and the “whimsical sculptures of Peregrine O’gormley,” says Maria Hajic, director of naturalism and contemporary art at Gerald Peters Gallery. “Diminutive in size but not quality, these works will surprise and delight,” says Hajic.
“I believe wildlife artists are inspired by the magnificence of their subject matter. With so many other animal artists, I share a sense of awe and wonder for these creatures,” says Jackson Hole-based painter Kathryn Mapes Turner, owner of Turner Fine Art. “I feel the wildlife artwork that leaves a lasting impression is work that is infused with this reverence. For me, it is a gesture of respect to render wildlife with sound proportions, accurate anatomy and a sense of vitality.”
Although artist Bob Coonts works primarily in acrylic to achieve his fantastical and whimsical wildlife pieces, he occasionally uses oils, watercolor and pastels as well. “I had a nice image of this big moose but thought that I would put him into this thicket of flowers and scrubs. I decided to make an early morning scene,” Coonts says of his acrylic Belly Deep, which depicts a moose in front of a vibrant pink sky. “I enjoy the challenge of changing up reality some in my work,” Coonts adds.
“Sighting dall rams while hiking above barren slopes and craggy rocks, watching a giant moose sway to a challenging rival, watching caribou bulls prance across the red autumn tundra—these are memories that inspire my creativity,” says painter Chip Brock. “Wildlife grabs everyone’s imagination at one time or another.” A bear with a sullen expression almost akin to that of a human being, sits amongst a patch of grass and wildflowers in A Little Blue. “My passion for art, a fascination with wildlife and a sporting lifestyle have been a part of me since childhood.”
2. Abend Gallery, Buffalo, oil, 16 x 20", by Brian Mashburn. 3. Antler Gallery, River Otter, graphite on paper, 28 x 36", by Zoe Keller. 4. Gerald Peters Gallery, Osprey, cast bronze, 15½ x 4½ x 43/8", by Les Perhacs. 5. Trailside Galleries, Above the Glacier - Gyrfalcon, oil on canvas, 40 x 38", by Ron Kingswood. 6. The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, Elk in Sage, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48", by Robert Bateman. 7. The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, Silent Paws, bronze, 20 x 19 x 11", by Gerald Balciar.
8. The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, Waters Edge, bronze, 42 x 36 x 15", by Walter Matia. 9. National Museum of Wildlife Art, Chief, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 98", by Robert Bateman. Gift of Birgit & Robert Bateman. 10. Luke Frazier, Chieftan, oil, 14 x 24" 11. National Museum of Wildlife Art, Hanging Grouse, oil on canvas, 28 x 20”, by Alexander Pope (1849-1924). Courtesy JKM Collection.
12. Trailside Galleries, A Season of Brotherhood, oil, 24 x 48", by Dustin Van Wechel. 13. Trailside Galleries, Onset of Winter, acrylic, 28 x 40", by Adam Smith. 14. National Museum of Wildlife Art, In the Forest, ca. 1880, oil on canvas, 36 x 26", by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). Courtesy JKM Collection. 15. Kathryn Mapes Turner, Charmed, oil on board, 12 x 9" 16. Kathryn Mapes Turner, Ursa, oil on linen, 12 x 12" 17. C.M. Russell Museum,Alpha Buck, polychrome bronze, ed. 1 of 15, 28 x 12 x 10", by Ken Mayernik. Courtesy the Leroy Strand Collection.