Woven into nature
When you work in the wild, your coworkers tend to be the animals, something Jay Moore can attest to after many years of plein air painting in the wilds of the West. “One of the perks of painting on location is the animals just come right up to you. Painting at an easel is like being in a deer stand—the animals simply don’t see you. They’re going about their life and just doing their thing,” he says. “And there you are just admiring them. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Colorado-based Moore, primarily known as a landscape painter, has turned his attention to wildlife works for In Their Own World, a new solo show he’s presenting at his own gallery, Jay Moore Studio, in Parker, Colorado. The works still have strong landscape components to them—fields of wildflowers, a stream shrouded in fall color, an icy creek banked by pillow-soft snow untouched by man and beast—yet, they are stunningly fresh takes on animals within their natural environments.
“I’ve had this collection of wildlife growing here and there, sort of infrequently. So when it came time to host a show in my own gallery, where I can do whatever I want and not have to worry about the work I might be better
known for, I knew these pieces would make a great show. I had a stash already, so I added to it,” Moore says. “I’ve had ideas, thumbnails sketches and small studies that have been ruminating for six months or longer. One of the things that was important to me was that they are from personal experienced. I’ve seen these things with my own eyes.”
What makes the paintings work, in addition to being testaments to the artist’s own experiences in the wild, is that they function so dynamically as both wildlife and landscape works, and yet neither genre is beholden to the other—the landscapes are vivid and lush, and yet the wildlife subjects live within these scenes not as static captives in the scene, but as free-roaming creatures of the forest. Consider a piece such as Rolling in Clover, a painting of a bear pawing through a green mountain meadow. There may have been pressure to crop in closer on the bear, or feature it in a more starring role, yet Moore gives the bear freedom to roam, to the point that the bear represents only a small percentage of the overall painting. Rolling in Clover also features Moore’s wonderful paint quality. The greens, yellows, whites and lavenders are woven into the painting in a way that beg to be touched, the same way a textile or tapestry dares viewers to rake their fingers lightly against the threads to feel the work on another dimension.
Other paintings include Narrow Escape,a bucolic fox scene in a farm setting; German Brown, an underwater fish scene that would make Stanley Meltzoff proud; Quiet Solitude, featuring a deer slowly edging toward an icy creek in a wintery scene; and Passing Through, a moose painting set within fall color. In nearly all of the works, the animals don’t dominate the compositions. Moore didn’t invent this idea—“robert Bateman has put animals in beautiful landscapes for a long time, as have Tucker Smith, Carl Rungius, John Clymer and many others…,” he adds—but he has taken it to an exciting new level with In Their Own World.
Study of Training is Almost Complete, oil on linen, 8 x 8”
Passing Through, oil on linen, 14 x 11”
Rolling in Clover, oil on linen, 36 x 40”
Quiet Solitude, oil on linen, 28 x 28”