Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


If you're knowledgeable about the field of wildlife art, you're certainly familiar with Lyn St. Clair, the creator of the above coots and many other wonderful pieces. Not only is she a skilled, prolific and creative painter, she's a fine naturalist that's smart as a whip, with an eagle eye. Lyn was recently diagnosed with breast cancer—ironic indeed, as she dedicated the better part of 1993 to a project she called 48 x 48, a fund raiser for cancer research. Now it's time for her to raise some funds of her own, to cover the expenses of surgery, hospitalization and therapy for her uninsured self. With that in mind, Lyn's friend and colleague Paula Waterman has set up an art web page dedicated to helping defray Lyn's medical expenses. There you'll find for sale numerous excellent artworks by numerous first-rate artists, many of them substantially discounted (my own piece, Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk & Western Rattlesnake [below], has been cut by more than half). Check back often, the site will be updated as more work is added.
upper: WATER BALLET (2006) by Lyn St. Clair oil 40" x 40"
lower: JUVENILE RED-TAILED HAWK & WESTERN RATTLESNAKE (1988) acrylic 18" x 24"


Conservation is a paramount cause to most of us wildlife artists, and we tend to wax self-congratulatory at the drop of a hat over the positive effect our work has in educating the public to its importance, a notion that's at best delusional and at worst a cynical sales con. Affecting positive change takes more than drawing pictures; what little intelligent preaching our work does tends to fall solely on the ears of the choir. The best we can hope to do with our work is to spark a bit of thought and conversation, and that is the idea behind an exhibition now up at the U.S. Department of Interior's Interior Museum, “Endangered Species: Flora & Fauna in Peril.” The exhibition, which consists of 50 sculptures and flatworks depicting species listed on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's Endangered Species List, was organized by the Wildling Museum in Los Olivos, California, and curated by David J. Wagner PhD.

I'm afraid I dropped the ball on this one; I wanted to participate, but simply couldn't find the time to paint a new piece before the jury deadline. An article in the Washington Times seemed a bit short of flattery (the final sentence, in particular), but it provides a short slide show of works from ESFFIP. The decision to select Suzan Hamilton-Todd's painting of an Aplomado Falcon (below) to illustrate the article was interesting to me.

These small chaparral falcons with long tails and legs are the most accipiter-like members of their genus. With their bold black belly-band, dark blue-gray upperparts (“aplomado” means “leaden”) and distinctive facial pattern, they are unmistakable. While it's a perfectly fine image in itself, exactly what Hamilton-Todd's Saker-like painting says about its intended subject eludes me. If you see something I don't please comment. Perhaps the editors liked its “post-realist” look, or maybe a deeper point was being made. Of the nine pieces in the slideshow, I regret to say that nothing strikes me as terribly noteworthy. It's hard to judge a show of 50 pieces on the basis of nine little jpeg images, but I see the very fact of this exhibition as a good thing. Hopefully it will encourage more artists to move in this direction, and it's bound to spark at least a bit of that all-important thought and conversation. It runs through February 7th.
upper: AYE-AYE & GIANT LEAF-TAILED GECKO (1996) acrylic 18" x 24"
lower: Northern Aplomado Falcon painting by Suzan Hamilton-Todd