Bennington Center for the Arts
Fourth Annual Art of the Animal Kingdom
June 12 - September 6, 1999
Edward (Ned) Aldrich, Colorado (b.1965) -- Cheetah Portrait, oil, 17x14
The fourth annual "Art of the Animal Kingdom" show, which opened June 12, 1999 at the Bennington Center for the Arts, brings some of the world's best painters of animal and wildlife subjects to Vermont. (left: Michael Albrechtsen - Kansas: Soaking Wet (Bison) - Acrylic, 18 x24. inches This piece won the Artists' Choice award at the AAK IV show opening weekend, June 12-13.)
"Art of the Animal Kingdom" (AAK) is a national touring exhibition featuring the work of ninety of the world's top animal artists. Fine wildlife art is increasing in popularity and critical regard in the Northeast, just as it has in the Mountain West. Vermont artists such as Nancy Howe and John Pitcher have already achieved international recognition, and the Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, Vermont has become one of the region's premier exhibitors of wildlife painting and sculpture.
In addition to Howe and Pitcher, both from the Dorset area, the show also displays the work of Vermonters Liza Myers of Sudbury, and Lyn and Rob St.Clair - Mullen of Brandon. Sue Westin, Pitcher's partner and artistic collaborator in Goldleaf Studios, is also a highly-regarded wildlife painter and has contributed to previous AAK shows.
(left to right: Dennis James Logsdon - Massachusetts (b.1941) : Sunrise Stretch (Tundra Swans) - Clayboard, 16 x36 inches; Laney - Wyoming (b.1942): Shade (Mule Deer) - Oil, 14 x22 inches)
Nancy Howe - Capturing the Moment
If sheep farming had been more lucrative, Nancy Howe might never have become the painter she is today. After taking her degree in Studio Art at Middlebury in the early 1970's, Nancy Howe was more than occupied by her roles as wife, mother of two, and owner of the Triple Jump Sheep Farm at her home in East Dorset. Her enormous natural talent lay dormant until 1988, when she was compelled to begin painting seriously, as she has said, out of sheer "economic necessity". Her first flush of success came in 1990, when her work was chosen for two national exhibitions, and as the winning entry in the annual Federal Duck Stamp competition. Since then she has been a mainstay of gallery and museum shows around the country, culminating with her selection as Featured Artist of the 1999 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, held February, 1999 in Charleston, SC.
"In trying to understand why something has happened to us, good or bad, we find it difficult to see the answers within the present. With the passage of time our patience and hindsight often reward us with clarity. The painting depicts this moment in time which requires patience. To identify features shrouded in morning mist, one has only to wait as the rising sun clears and defines the landscape." (right: Nancy Howe, East Dorset, VT, Just Before Clarity, Oil, 24 x 19 inches)
Howe's paintings are immediately impressive for their technical brilliance. Her subjects, ranging from wild ducks to cooped chickens, leopard cubs to kittens, are clothed in feathers and fur of astonishing detail, depth, and softness. But in recent years, she also has drawn on her love of the great artists of previous centuries to integrate dramatic, sumptuous lighting and arresting composition into her animal portraits. The end result is a sense of dignity and timelessness that belies the momentary nature of the scene depicted.
"Last year, while doing field research in Wyoming, my husband and I nearly stepped on top of this bull and his mate. The pair was bedded down together in the brush along the Snake River. It never ceases to amaze me how such a large beast can blend so wonderfully with his surroundings." (left: Lyn St.Clair-Mullen, Brandon, VT, Teton Tyrant - Moose - Oil, 18 x36 inches)
John Pitcher - Mixing Passion and Accuracy
John's Pitcher's stunning outdoor scenes are born of an equal love of wild animals and of the varied habitats in which they live. A self-described "nature boy," Pitcher spent much of his childhood outdoors, studying, sketching, and collecting the woodland denizens of his native Michigan. An indifferent student in the classroom, he instead soaked up the lore of the outdoor world, becoming, as he says, "a walking encyclopedia on natural history.
"'Red-Tailed Repose' evolved over time. Originally sighted in 1993 in a western Oregon field, then three years later when I was challenged with a painting demonstration I began to 'download" that memory onto my canvas and created what is now the preliminary study for this work. Four years later I drew this hawk again to demonstrate how to paint feathers. Only this time I brought it into full 'plumage'!" (left: John Charles Pitcher - Dorset, VT, Red-Tailed Repose - Red Tail Hawk, Acrylic, 24 x 19 inches)
His adult life has been spend in Alaska, Washington State, and now Dorset, Vermont, where he moved in 1995 to live with artist Sue Westin. Pitcher's paintings appear in Audubon's Birds of America and other field guides, as well as in fine art galleries and museums throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and even China.
John Pitcher sees himself as "one of those people who wants to put everything I see and feel in each painting." It shows - his paintings often combine a close focus on the animal subject with vast perspectives of mountains, cliffs, and rivers, all rendered with jewel-like clarity. He places his subjects in carefully rendered surroundings in which every tree, flower, and rock bears further inspection. To create these richly textured, scientifically accurate scenes, Pitcher draws on his own detailed scientific and artistic notebooks, created during years of close observations made in the wild.
By Cody Laumeister. Original reporting by Michael McIntosh, Wildlife Art News and Yvonne Daley, The Boston Globe.
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