Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


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