Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: ‘Look at me… I am’ graces Wausau exhibition

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Woodson Art Museum Birds in Art 2017_1508236237886.JPG

Two steps in, and I am taken aback.

The image of a burst from a blizzard stirs a “Wow.”

But it’s not a blizzard. Nor snow.

It’s an all-white bird. Showing off.

By its posture, the bird is saying, “Look at me… I am.”

This is not a real bird. And it is not a photograph. It is an oil painting.

The title is “Esperanto,” in reference to a universal language.

The artwork by Laurence Saunois of France is the first of many Look at me… I am’s on a visit to the 2017 “Birds in Art” exhibition at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

It’s a great annual international showcase in the heart of Wisconsin.

World class.

Really.

One takeaway is exhilaration.

The exhibition is a confirmation of human creativity on a theme with limitless possibilities.

As the title suggests, “Birds in Art” requires a bird in the artwork.

Some birds, like in “Esperanto,” are solo, dead-on realistic portrayals. The portrayals are in oil, paper, watercolor, sculpture and a multitude of variants of each.

Some birds are depicted in groups, up to massive flocks, as in California artist Andrea Rich’s hundreds of Brewer’s blackbirds.

Some birds are suggested, as in an empty nest depicted by Minnesota artist Wendy Brockman.

Many birds are exotic – of myriad kinds from many places on the globe.

One is exotically unreal – a neon parrot in a sign for a shoe store painted by California watercolorist David Milton.

Time after time, images are striking.

+ A grey crown crane – all white – consists of two shocks of feathers, each cut by Calvin Nicholls of Ontario, Canada.

+ Artwork of a bush filled with hummingbirds that at first glance seems to be an ink drawing but close examination reveals everything has been meticulously cut by Swiss-born Lucrezia Bieler.

+ The oh-so-life-like wood sculpture of a rough-legged hawk that seems ready to spring from its clear plastic encasement. Examined from all sides, and countless exacting hours of a quest of perfection are obvious in the artwork of Gary Eigenberger of Green Bay.

Reality is prized, but it is not a necessity in the exhibition. Two hooded merganser (ducks) are represent in fictionalized form in wood by Ohio artist Mark Eberhard.

Some images are chilling. Vermont artist John C. Pitcher’s “A Murder of Crows” is more than a pun about a group of crows being called a murder. His depicted crows have been shotgunned, along with a blue jay and barn owl – echoing photos of war slaughters.

Some images bring a smile. Rachelle Siegrist of Tennessee is represented in a watercolor of three ostriches. Behind the birds are three lines, from 6-foot-6 to 7-foot-6, as if the birds are in a police lineup. The title: “The Usual Suspects.”

The exhibition is about birds, the variety of birds, nature, art, variety in art media, artistic approaches, human fascinations, human failings, the world, imagination and creativity.

The art is contemporary – pieces created in the past three years.

Admission is free.

Photographs may be taken.

The exhibition continues to Nov. 26.

The museum offers additional attractions. More information is at www.lywam.org.

“Birds in Art” includes artwork by 114 artists, including 22 international artists and six from Wisconsin.

In its 42nd year, the standout exhibition continues to stand up and say, “I am.”

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 new books, “Three Miles Past Lost and in the Pickers” and “Nickolaus and Olive – a naïve opera (in words),” are available online and in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum, Bosse’s and The Reader’s Loft.

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