HABI­TATS OF THE WORLD

Collector’s Fo­cus: Wildlife Art

American Art Collector - - Contents - BY JOHN O'HERN

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

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