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Monday, November 28, 2016

National Museum of Wildlife Art

A watercolor of the museum as inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, echoes the hillside behind the facility.
The museum's entry rotunda
features a "wildlife"
totem pole.
On the outside, especially as one approaches from a distance, it doesn't look like much. Located near the ski resort of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you might easily mistake it for some sort of Native American ruins. But at some 51,000 square feet of display area, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is much. Actually, insofar as the building goes, it doesn't look all that impressive from the inside either (left)--which is good. It bucks the trend of turning a museum's architecture into a work of art itself, thus com-peting with the art it displays. Although I dislike museums which do that, it has become so common these days I guess I should get used to it. This is the second of an indeterminate number of items dealing with some of the smaller, often overlooked, art museums dotting the American cultural landscape. Founded in 1987, like so many such museums, even at some 5,000 different art items, its holdings are modest, but represent the best work to be found in its spec-ialized area of content.

Wapiti Trail, 2007by American sculptor Bart Walter
As befits a wildlife museum, there's almost as much sculptural art outside as there is painted art inside. The sculptural group Wapiti Trail (above)is a site-specific piece commission specifically by the museum. Also outside, near the parking lot, is an impressive creature (below) often called "Bullwinkle" by older visitors. Younger visitors simply ask, "What's a Bullwinkle?" In addition to 14 galleries, the museum has a Sculpture Trail, Museum Shop, the Rising Sage Café, a Children’s Discovery Gallery, and Library. More than 80,000 people visit every year.

This mpressive creature you wouldn't want to meet along
the road (or worse, in the middle of it). They have
 been known to charge automobiles head on.
The core of the museum's collections reflects traditional and contemporary realism. The museum's two centerpiece galleries display a collection of works by noted wildlife artists, Carl Rungius and Bob Kuhn. The museum's holdings are dedicated to recognizing the relationship between humans and the environment. The collection includes work dating from 2500 B.C. to the present, including pieces from Charles Russell, Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, George Catlin, Frederic Remington, John James Audubon, N.C. Wyeth, Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert, Bruno Liljefors, Robert Bateman, Simon Gudgeon, and Mark Catesby. Additionally, there are works by such un-notable wildlife artists as Auguste Rodin, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Andy Warhol.

Carl Rungius was a German-born (1869) wildlife artist active
during the first half of the 20th-century, painting in Canada
and the western United States.
The museum awards each year its Rungius Medal, named in honor Carl Rungius, to individuals who have made lifetime or extraordinary contributions to the artistic interpretation and preservation of wildlife and its habitat. The museums other featured artist, Robert Kuhn, born in 1920, also rates his own gallery of wildlife at (below).

The work of American wildlife artist, Robert Kuhn is a perennial
favorite with museum goers.
In addition, the museum encourages artists to take inspiration from Jackson Hole’s famously beautiful natural surroundings during its annual Plein Air Fest each June. The festival, has lined up more than 50 artists for next year, who will race to complete plein air masterpieces in just four hours during the festival’s exciting “quick draw.” Along with watching the artists creating in real time, art lovers will have an opportunity to bid on the freshly painted pieces.

A crowd of potential buyers observes the museum's annual speed painting competition.
What's with the elephants? Where does it say
American wildlife?

The wildlife has the right-of-way.


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