Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Extra! 43rd ‘Birds in Art’ of Wausau Has (Again) a Talent to Amaze

Artwork in Birds in Art by Gary Eigenberger_1539374748052.JPG.jpg

The 2018 edition of “Birds in Art” is just like the other ones – full of amazements.

+ Get up close and stare at the fine, fine brush strokes on a gray crown crane and marvel at the patience and finesse of Cathy Sheeter (Aurora, Colorado).

+ Walk around a bold bronze sculpture of a life-size wild turkey and wonder at the art-meets-metal skills of Paul Rhymer (Point of Rocks, Maryland).

+ Peer and then peer some more at the layer upon layer of feathers – all sheer-white paper – shaping a red-tailed hawk in action and imagine the intensity of Calvin Nicholls (Lindsay, Ontario, Canada).

+ Smile as you hear comical puppy stories from onlookers in front of playful great dane Omar with a wild turkey feather in his mouth and savor the curators’ openness with the clever way the “Birds in Art” theme is followed by S.V. Medaris (Mount Horeb, Wisconsin).

+ Put on your thinking cap and try to figure out how a scissor-tailed fly catcher is caught in midair by but three blades of grass in a feat of balance and conceptualizing by Gary Eigenberger (Green Bay, Wisconsin).

These are five pieces among artwork by 114 artists from near (eight from Wisconsin) and far (31 foreign lands) in a display that is continuing to Nov. 25 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

“Birds in Art” is an annual world-class exhibition.

Pick a medium in art or a bird from anywhere in the world, and it seems an exacting artist from someplace on the globe has created an artwork with or about that bird in a personal way.

That last bit is what struck me about this year’s “Birds in Art.” The artists’ statements often are about relationships vs. “how I did this piece.” Here are samples:

++ On the lip of a rusted watering can (real), a tiny bird (painted figure of a common stonechat) peers in as if looking for water. Fran A.H. Alvarado (Tomellso, Ciudad Real, Spain) says the can was used by his father on the family farm. Alvarado writes, “Sadly, ‘progress’ has modified the landscape and caused traditional farm work to disappear. The presence of the common stonechat also relates to my father; this bird was a frequent visitor to his garden.” That things that no more are present in this three-dimensional mixture of art and reality is profound.

++ A condor is painted as if sitting for a formal portrait by Mary Cornish (Warrenton, Virginia). The bird is named Truman (for President Truman). The bird lived to age 70 and looks nobly aged. Cornish tells of a myth that made her connect with her subject: “Truman brought to mind the story of Gryphus, a son of Zeus. Gryphus was legendary for his beautiful appearance until he betrayed Zeus, who turned him into a grotesque Minotaur.” Truman not only has a personality, he spoke to the artist and now speaks to the viewer.

++ Four chickens stand poised as if each has just said something in a watercolor by Allen Blagden (Salisbury, Connecticut). He writes, “As a young boy, I kept chickens. In the evening, when I shut them in the coop, I would sit quietly in the corner and be transported by their gentle clucking as they settled in for the night.” Blagden’s title for the painting has gentle humor: “Girls We Know.” That kind of personal knowledge is part of the beauty of the exhibition.

++ There is somber elegance, too, in a bond elicited in a watercolor and gouache painting of a tundra swan by Katie Ann Musolff (Stoddard, Wisconsin). “Alerted by a phone call about a frozen swan on the ice, I set out to find it,” Musolff writes. “The swan had died from a wing injury and the cold, yet possessed a sense of regalness. Delicate feathers blanketed the bird in milky warmth. Its thick, powerful wings were heavy, suggesting strength and distance covered in a lifetime.” In death, the swan achieves a state of grace through art.

Senses of the environment, of humor, of caring, of curiosity and of admiration are a part “Birds in Art.” It’s like that every year.

There is much more to see inside and outside the museum. Info: lywam.org.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is one of Wisconsin’s fantastic places.

Admission is free.

Yes, that is amazing, too.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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