Lately, plein air painter Jen Hoffman has been screeching. “Scree!” I suspected she’d mistaken herself for a hawk, but she’s just excited about the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s upcoming exhibit, Birds of Sage and Scree. Twenty-seven paintings by artist Greg McHuron with correlating text by writer and conservationist Bert Raynes will be on display. The show opens Thursday, March 4, 2010 and as Raynes and McHuron wouldn’t think of not having a party, there is one! The party starts at the Museum at 5:30 pm, with a targeted end time of 7:30 pm. I predict a packed house.
Are there two more admired and loved men in Jackson? Two figures whose passions are never dimmed, whose work is more purely motivated…devoid of narcissism? I don’t think so. Franz Camenzind is the only activist/conservationist/artist who holds a candle. These spiritual leaders follow their muse, waking up daily considering and honoring the natural beauty surrounding us. They wonder what they can do next to help it all along, and they don’t think about how they might benefit professionally or politically.
Back to the point, the show. McHuron’s paintings and Raynes’ text are combined in a book, also titled Birds of Sage and Scree. This party celebrates that book’s upcoming Spring 2010 release, the finish line to a collaborative quest. All proceeds derived from book sales will benefit the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund. That organization’s mission is to “…initiate, augment, or simply fund projects or activities to help maintain viable and sustainable wildlife populations into the future, especially in Wyoming and Jackson Hole, through support of research, education, habitat protection and habitat restoration.”
A Raynes-McHuron collaboration provides an excellent in-your-hands example of the power of connection between nature and art. Wildlife art nurtures love for, and engagement with, the natural world. This show and the book are beautiful, and they are a tool. The exhibition is also an opportunity for NMWA to “…highlight two long-time supporters of the Museum,” says Museum President and CEO James McNutt. “The show furthers the Museum’s mission to inspire visitors to examine both fine art and humanity’s relationship with nature.”
Raynes, with his late wife, Meg, have been recognized for their dedication to conservation and wildlife issues by the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and the Town of Jackson. As the book profile on Raynes notes, he “….noticed that some promising bird habitats with difficult access got (little) attention. In particular, Raynes found that students in beginning birding classes tended to avoid scree slopes and attempting to cross expanses of sagebrush. Thus, birds that inhabit these ecosystems are lesser known. (Raynes) has long thought that these birds should be better understood.”
Greg McHuron especially delights in painting en plein aire in locations ranging from northern Alaska to the Grand Canyon. McHuron regularly participates in the Museum’s Western Visions® show and received numerous awards and special recognition from his peers and the Museum. In 2009, his painting Alpine Flush won the Trustee’s Purchase Award.
“I prefer painting…en plein air as the drama and excitement that occurs all around me is difficult to recreate in a studio environment,” notes McHuron. “When I paint the rapidly changing scenes, I put into each of them the feelings and excitement that I felt while watching the scene unfold. Years of watching, analyzing and learning from nature’s school ground has helped me to understand the interrelations between organic and inorganic entities and how different lighting, seasons and locations affect how they look and react. If I can capture that particular feeling, I know that those viewing my works will come to feel some of the emotions and excitement that motivated my wanting to record this particular fleeting moment.”
Birds of Sage and Scree remains on display through April 18, 2010. Phone the Museum at 307.733.5771.