HABITATS OF THE WORLD
Collector’s Focus: Wildlife Art
In an Iroquois creation myth, Sky Woman fell through a hole in an island in the sky to a watery world below. The water animals saw her plight and tried and failed to create a place for her to land. However, Muskrat brought up some mud and Turtle agreed to have it put on his back. Sky Woman had grabbed some seeds before she fell and released them onto the soil on Turtle’s back when she landed. Many indigenous tribes refer to North America as Turtle Island.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward put together the first terrarium in the 1840s to watch a chrysalis transform and was surprised when a fern began to grow in the container along with a sprig of grass. The closed environment of the
terrarium provided the ideal conditions for them to grow in.
Artist and illustrator Lisa Ericson painted Terrarium depicting a turtle carrying a piece of the world on its back. She says, “These pieces are all about turtles and what they can carry on those amazing half-a-globe shells, and about things that need saving.” Some of her turtle paintings depict single species of butterflies and in others a group of birds or forest creatures. She paints in meticulous detail with tiny 18/0 brushes. She has tried to paint with bigger brushes, but she confesses, “The call of the tiny brush was too strong!” The realism of her creatures makes it easier to imagine the creatures living together in real harmony, interdependently.
Her husband, Josh Keyes, grew up going to museums with his family and being fascinated by totem poles and the mystic stories of the indigenous people of the northwest. His environmental interests permeate his work. Earlier, more dystopian paintings, such as The Cleaner, depict simple and complex vignettes isolated against a white background that he describes as “diagrammatic illustrations from science textbooks” to encourage viewers to “see nature objectively.” His storytelling has become more
complex since he has expanded his settings into scenes in nature that embody a bit more hope for the future. “The Cleaner” is a fallow deer gathering up the detritus of the city streets with his antlers, making large balls of trash that he deposits at the edge of town like a John Chamberlain sculpture garden.
Brin Levinson began painting the often bleak built environment of his home of Portland, Oregon. To bring life to the compositions he began to introduce animals and now paints post-human landscapes where the animals roam among the constructions the humans have left behind. He also sees the animals as “elements of hope…Nature always wins.” Inspired by the cityscapes he describes his process as “diving right in” with thin layers of paint “and over time, eventually, a painting emerges.” In The Cabin, a doe sips from a stream that runs beneath a stranded caboose covered with graffiti and slowly rotting into the landscape. It’s the end of the line for the caboose and its human creators and just another day for Mother Nature.
Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen writes, “As I explore the planet’s ecology, it conjures
a flow of scenarios and stories in my imagination. My paintings are a means for me to realize these narratives and to work out their details. I try to say as much as I can about how the particular subject lives and interacts with its environment and other organisms.” He notes the lack of diversity of subjects in wildlife art and he has set out to rectify that with a wide range of subject matter, such as Green Iguana & Leaf-Cutter Ants. The green iguana lives in the forests of Central and South America along with the green leaf-cutter ants that crush the leaves to make a medium for growing fungi to feed their colony. Van Kempen is a self-taught artist yet has been named a Master member by the Society of Animal Artists. The extraordinary detail of his paintings puts the viewer into the context of the animal’s world where they can feel the artist’s passion for his subject and the mysterious symbiosis of creature and environment.
Toni Hamel has a different take on the environment, painting scenes with humorous juxtapositions as well as expositions of terrifying truths. Floaters is from her series High Tides and Misdemeanors. We laugh at the floating bathtub duckies and the incredulous gazes between them and the polar bear, floating on his remnant of Arctic ice. Neither knows that the polar bear may go extinct and the duckies may float forever. Sometimes, though, humor can break down barriers and resistance to inconvenient truths. Hamel calls her paintings “an illustrated commentary on human frailties.”
Jon Ching brings together the universal and the particular in Equilibrium. He says the painting “is part of my ongoing search
for connections in nature. I loved how the shapes of the ray and owl, both gliding in their respective fluids, were so similar and their patterns almost inversely mimic each other. I love how they balance each other and together it reminds me of how everything is a balanced connection that we need to respect, cherish and protect.” Ching has placed the animals from opposite environments in a composition recalling the Chinese yin yang symbol of complementary opposites combined to make a whole.
Contemporary artists, such as these, are giving us a new perspective on wildlife and its relationship to the no less wild life of humankind.
In this section devoted to wildlife art are traditional and contemporary interpretations that highlight the beauty, strength and environment of some of the world’s greatest creatures. Provided are also inspirations, reasons to collect and insight into conservational efforts that shape the artists’ works.
Hallandale Beach, Florida-based Sirona Fine Art represents a number of artists who create animal-themed works, including painters Brian Keith Stephens, Scherer & Ouporov and sculptor Wesley Wofford.
Stephens’ works are filled with energetic
brushstrokes that often appear in imagined spaces where the foreground and background work together. “All of Stephens’ work seeks to reflect his love of the world around him,” explains the gallery. This includes the artist’s wolf painting White Heart.
Married artists Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouporov, who work as the collaborative team Scherer & Ouporov, present the hummingbird painting Young Spirit Bird that contains an excerpt from DH Lawrence’s poem Humming-bird painted around its edges.
Academic discipline and tradition are combined with expressive freedom and emotive, abstract elements in the sculptures of Wofford, such as the bronze Scottish Stag. According to the gallery, his “personality and hand is visibily present in the surface textures and compositional displays of his complex, thoughtful bronzes.”
The watercolors of Flick Ford are available through Quidley & Company Fine Art, which has locations in Boston; Nantucket, Massachusetts; and Naples, Florida. Primarily known for his marine life paintings, Ford surprises with a majestic osprey piece titled Osprey Platform Nest. “This painting brings me back to the work I was creating in the early ’90s. I was selling birds-of-prey paintings for a while and thought it might be fun to revisit the subject,” shares the artist.
One of four in his Marine Macro Pop Art series is Blue-ringed Octopus, where a small creature is blown up four to six times lifesize and in heighted colors. Right Whale is a species that was “almost hunted to extinction; it was a preferred target for whalers because of their docility, slow movement and closeness to the coast, only 400 or so remain in NE waters,” says Ford.
Lotton Gallery has represented Yana Movchan since 2011. Movchan paints animals full of humorous curiosity with exquisite detail. Her Autumn Rabbit seems to gaze back and forth, while you gaze at him. Movchan’s animal paintings create amuse-
ment and lighthearted pleasure. Gelena Pavlenko and Ashley Anne Clark joined Lotton Gallery in 2017 with much success. Clark’s nocturnal wildlife, especially her playful foxes with butterflies, capture the essence of Prince Edward Island. Pavlenko’s Spring Melody is peaceful and blossoming, pointing to awe-inspiring nature.
Montgomery, Ohio-based artist Amy Roy is naturally attracted to painting birds, “but more so to their uniqueness in their appearance, their behavior or their interaction with their environment,” she says. “Collectors should look for a well-rendered, identifiable species that is portrayed as intriguing subject matter within a distinctive composition.”
James Lockhart, whose original paintings and museum-quality prints are available through the Lockhart Collection at Read Lockhart Gallery, was a noted nature and wildlife artist of the second half of the 20th century. He spent his life learning, observing and documenting the details of animal life and their habitats.
“To me, nature is the one source that an artist can turn to for countless ideas, compositions and color,” he said. “I have always been intensely interested in animals and the outdoors. I feel that the only way for me to share this with others is to present nature’s world in a way that everyone can understand.”
Raymond Gibby says he chose to be a wildlife sculptor because he gets to observe and appreciate animals. “I love to study how ingeniously constructed each animal is to survive in their respective environments. I get to spend time in the outdoors seeing wildlife. And I love pondering where those animals might have been and the incredible vistas they have seen during their lives,” he shares. “I get to spend only a few hours at a time with wildlife, but my imagination gets to go with the animals. It is fascinating to consider their secret lives.”
Beginning May 5, Canadian artist Cindy Sorley-Keichinger will display some of her new wildlife paintings—including Goldfinch and Arctic Gold—at Picture This Gallery in Sherwood Park, Alberta. The show is one of Canada’s largest miniature exhibitions. Sorley-Keichinger, who has long found herself drawn to the habitats and animals of her region, says, “The world around is loaded with never-ending inspiration and topics.”
California-based artist Jerry Venditti says, “We’ve all heard the dire predictions and mourned the sad losses. But the plight of Earth’s endangered creatures is seldom headline news anymore. We go about our
lives, as do they. And yet, their numbers continue to dwindle. In just one century, the blink of a planetary eye—their populations have been slashed, often literally, at the hands of predators who often slay them for nothing more than bragging rights and trophies.”
A Face of Change is a nonprofit organization founded by the artist’s son, Jayce Venditti, to bring awareness for positive change to help protect endangered species, the environment and ecosystem. “The animals I honor in my paintings—from the towering to the tiny, beasts to insects—are on a dangerous precipice,” says the artist, who donates 50 percent of sales to the collector’s organization of choice. “My hope is to capture the nobility, the beauty, the exquisite threads of nature we would tragically lose forever if these fellow creatures are allowed to perish.”
Venditti is a member of the Artists for Conservation, an international nonprofit that has a mission “to support wildlife and habitat conservation and environmental education through art that celebrates nature.” His work was awarded a nomination by AFC, and he was selected as one of 84 artists to participate in an international exhibit leaving North America for China in 2016 where he sold his art.
In her latest collection of paintings, Katie Graham draws inspiration from “the migrating birds who make the world feel free and accessible,” she says. “Like many bird species, I am a scatterling of Africa. Forever inspired by my birthplace, South Africa, I have lived on five different continents and I have found ‘home’ in many places, just as the birds do.”
The painting express Graham’s contemplations about personal happiness. “The world is not free or accessible for many,” Graham says. “Yet the people I have met on my lifetime travels, who despite great adversity have retained their happiness and positivity, are a source of inspiration
for me and this series.”
According to artist Kelly Leahy Radding, “Spending time in nature preserves my inner balance and sense of self. My current body of work is exploring the precarious fragility of nature and how precious it is to me. I am portraying a natural world that is spiritually and physically in balance while at the same time acknowledging just how delicate that balance is, how close it is to tipping over an irretrievable edge.”
Paul Rhymer’s bronze sculptures of animals are full of personality, as are the titles that he comes up to describe each work. A life-size sculpture of a turkey, titled The Candidate, was inspired by years of turkey hunting and having to endure decades of political change. “Here’s a look at a pompous guy looking for attention,” says Rhymer. “This is an observation of a puffed up subject; whether it’s a bird looking for love and oblivious to everything around him or any politician looking for higher office.”
The owls in Barn Parliament came about from Rhymer’s interest in how animated they tend to be. “The fact that they are the only birds with a face, they are easy to anthropomorphize. We read all sorts of characteristics and virtues into them,” he says. “I’ll let the viewer guess what this meeting is about.” In another of his works, Song Dogs, he celebrates coyotes as dogs rather than varmints.
Animals have always been a strong influence and inspiration for Yvonne Mendez, who is represented by Gallery 1401 in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Shain Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina; Shuptrine Gallery in Highlands, North Carolina; and Beals & Co. in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In each painting Mendez strives to interpret the energy she feels from observing them. She says, “Their innocence, majestic beauty and playfulness keeps me interested and excited as I try to transfer this attraction to canvas.”
2. Jon Ching, Equilibrium, oil on wood panel, 16 x 16" 3. Quidley & Company Fine Art, Osprey Platform Nest, watercolor on Arches paper, 56 x 36", by Flick Ford.
4. Quidley & Company Fine Art, Blue-ringed Octopus, watercolor and gouache on Arches, 36 x 36", by Flick Ford. 5. Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, Green Iguana & Leaf-Cutter Ants, acrylic on illustration board, 18 x 24" 6. Toni Hamel, Floaters, oil on cradled panel, 18 x 24" 7. Antler Gallery, The Cabin, oil on panel, 23 x 36", by Brin Levinson.
8. Antler Gallery, Terrarium, acrylic on wood panel, 12 x 12", by Lisa Ericson.
9. Sirona Fine Art, Scottish Stag, bronze, ed. 3/9, 98 x 43 x 43", by Wesley Wofford. 10. Lotton Gallery, Spring Melody, oil on canvas, 16 x 20", by Gelena Pavlenko.
11. Lotton Gallery, Red Fox with Three Butterflies, mixed media oil on panel, 10 x 10", by Ashley Anne Clark. 12. Lotton Gallery, Autumn Rabbit, oil on linen, 10 x 12", by Yana Movchan. 13. Katie Graham, Beyond Sunshine, watercolor on Aquabord, 36 x 24" 14. Quidley & Company Fine Art, Right Whale, watercolor on Arches, 40 x 60", by Flick Ford. 15. Sirona Fine Art, Young Spirit Bird, egg tempera, 24k gold and yellow sapphire on panel, 9 x 9", by Scherer & Ouporov. 16. Sirona Fine Art, White Heart, oil on canvas,
35 x 46", by Brian Keith Stephens.
17. Katie Graham, Out of the Blue 1, watercolor on Aquabord, 36 x 24" 18. Raymond Gibby, Moonlit Serenade, bronze, ed. 20, 25 x 10 x 8" 19. Cindy Sorley-Keichinger,
Waiting for Mom, acrylic on bird, 30 x 30" 20. Cindy Sorley-Keichinger, Arctic Gold, acrylic on birch, 9 x 12" 21. Jerry Venditti, Wisdom, oil, 11 x 14" 22. Yvonne Mendez,
California Girl, oil on linen, 48 x 36" 23. Lockhart Collection, Great Egret, mixed media, 40 x 62½", by James Lockhart. 24. Lockhart Collection, Deer at the Pond, mixed media,
42 x 52", by James Lockhart. 25. Amy Roy, Good Night Cormorant! (diptych), oil on linen, 11 x 28" 26. Raymond Gibby, Choose Your Friends Wisely, bronze, ed. 35, 17 x 13 x 11" 27. Yvonne Mendez, Lucy in the Sky, oil on linen, 48 x 36" 28. Amy Roy, Marco Island Burrowing Owls, oil on linen, 16 x 20" 29. Yvonne Mendez, Ruby, oil on board, 19 x 23"
30. Kelly Leahy Radding, Elegy, silverpoint on prepared paper, 10 x 7" 31. Raymond Gibby, Something in the Air, bronze, ed. 20, 18 x 9 x 8" 32. Katie Graham, Over the Moon, watercolor on Aquabord, 36 x 24" 33. Cindy Sorley-Keichinger, Goldfinch, acrylic on textured canvas, 5 x 7" 34. Jerry Venditti, Lion Light, oil, 18 x 24" 35. Paul Rhymer, Barn Parliament, bronze, life-size 36. Paul Rhymer, Song Dogs, bronze, life-size 37. Gail Powell, Flow of Life, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 x 2" 38. Paul Rhymer, The Candidate, bronze, life-size