Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

FLORA & FAUNA IN PERIL

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

15 Comments:

Blogger Steve Bodio said...

Does "post realist" mean unrecognizable?

Too bad. A good purpose but I wouldn't buy anything they show.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Shane said...

I have to agree. Great intentions, but most of the artwork was not that impressive. My guess... not to many artists submitted work which is odd because the prize money was substantial.
Any of your pieces would have won that show.

Big Fan,

Shane Duerksen

www.shaneduerksen.com

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad my work created conversation..


Thanks for the support..

Suzan Hamilton Todd: artist

6:23 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

Carel,

Your wildlife art is beautiful. I wish, if you are championing other wildlife artists, like Lyn St. Clair on your blog, it is also possible to champion other kinds of artists too. The freedom to paint however anyone wants to paint, is what I most value and espouse. In a free atmosphere, a broader spectrum of creative answers is allowed to surface---broader perhaps than any one individual can approve, but it's grander for being this way too.

10:12 AM  
Blogger cpbvk said...

Suzan and Mona: Thank you both for your gracious comments. Suzan, my remarks about your Aplomado Falcon came off harsher than you deserve, upon reflection, and I've amended them. There are a multitude of ways that a painting can succeed or fail. As an image I consider your piece successful. Since you titled it "Aplomado Falcon," I assume there was something about that species you were trying to get across, and that message was lost on me. The worlds of wildlife art and other art are far too removed from one another, and I support the efforts of artists like Suzan to smudge the line between the two. I still tend to think too much like someone solely interested in realistic representation of nature (a pursuit where I don't always succeed). This subject deserves a whole post to itself. Still, I think that in an exhibition whose stated mission is to elevate awareness of endangered species, straying too far from that actual theme is to be discouraged. I'm interested to hear both of your views on this.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

Carel, I must apologize. I realize I did the very thing I was complaining about if I stated my opinion too strongly, and didn't value your opinion also. It's only my opinion, and not more.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments.

I must say I was honored to be part of the show.
I did not enter as a "Wildlife artist"
I am not.
I am an artist that is surrounded by wildlife on a daily basis on the Central Coast of California.
I am inspired by and will continue to create pieces shown to me for free by the raptors that surround me.
Thank you for clearing that up as I did feel attacked for no reason other that another artist didn't like what they saw.
Keep doing what you do....you're good at it.

Suzan

5:53 AM  
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