Flying Colors: Birds fly into the Ironwood Gallery as part of a traveling exhibition

click to enlarge Flying Colors: Birds fly into the Ironwood Gallery as part of a traveling exhibition
Courtesy of Ironwood Gallery
Jeremy Paul’s acrylic painting “Waiting on the Mill” is one of 50 works on paper in the Birdsin Art exhibition.

The 46th Annual Juried Exhibition by Woodson Art Museum is at the Ironwood Gallery in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute.

A museum committed to conservation, Curator Jennifer Lindquist said this traveling exhibition, different every year, is a favorite of museum goers due to the breadth of artists capturing images of birds in ever-new creative ways. 

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin has organized a juried art show on contemporary artistic interpretations of avian themes every year since 1976. The 46th art show is traveling the country and includes 50 original paintings and works on paper, plus 10 sculptures. All works had to be created within the past three years and included works in watercolor, oil, linocut and scratchboard, and they used acrylic, wood, wire and bronze.

Lindquist said they will host the exhibit again in 2024.

“At our museum, we’re all bird freaks,” Lindquist said. “Our patrons love them. This is one of their favorite shows. The show that the Woodson hosts really is considered one of the best in the world.”

She said it would be difficult to curate so many different artists individually. While artists are allowed to submit multiple works, only one can be in the exhibit on any given year, so each work represents a different artist.

“Each artist has such a unique interpretation of their avian theme, of their particular bird or bird habitat,” Lindquist said. “Each one has got something really unique about it in terms of how that artist sees their subject and how they interpret it through their medium. It just makes it really special.”

Lindquist encourages people to take their time at the exhibit. It opened June 25 and she’s observed most people take a half hour to an hour to go through it.

“We have it laid out in a really nice way,” Lindquist said. “The building lends itself to a kind of natural walking through it. For the viewer who is coming to the museum and walks into this gallery, the number one thing is really just taking the time. It’s just standing in front of the piece and asking yourself questions about it. Am I familiar with this bird? Do I know what they are doing in this painting or sculpture? What is the artist trying to say here with this arrangement, this composition before me? It’s like when you are doing active engagement with reading. There’s a kind of visual literacy that goes with viewing art that I think is smart for taking in a show like this.”

She said there is a catalog that goes with the show for anyone who wants more information on each piece. There is information on their website and at the Woodson’s website, depending on how deeply a person wants to learn about any given artist.

Sometimes, Lindquist said, especially this time of year, people come in just to escape the heat and enjoy the air conditioning.

“People come in with a red face and they just need a breather,” Lindquist said.

“But they end up walking out with an ‘aha’ expression on their face. There’s usually always something that takes people by surprise when they come to this exhibit.”

Lindquist enjoys listening to the conversations that patrons have. Many people indulge in nostalgia and personal memories, times when they saw a particular bird on vacation, or a recollection of birds that come to their feeders. People also talk about how impressed they are with the remarkable skill level in the art on display and are often awestruck by individual pieces.

The focus on birds is something that furthers the conservation mission of the museum at a time when birds are suffering due to climate change. Species are becoming endangered at a faster rate and their habitats are being threatened. Migratory patterns have been thrown off because of temperature changes and the changing timing of food availability.

“Art creates a kind of intimacy with the subject matter that is deeper and a richness that is less superficial than other forms of learning,” Lindquist said. “This exhibit shows appreciation of the bird and several of the pieces are warnings. Art has a way of creating a depth of learning and the subject matter here are birds, conservation and ecology, it is art without being too pushy.”

It’s why the exhibit is at the Ironwood now and new iterations will be back in future years.  

The 46th Annual Juried Exhibition by the Woodson Art Museum Birds in Art

When: Now through Aug. 21, Sunday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.

Where: Ironwood Gallery, Arizona-Sonoma Desert Museum Art Institute, 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson.

Tickets: $24.95 general admission, $22.95 seniors, $13.95 youth (ages 3-12), free to members and children under 3, discounts for military, Arizona/Sonora residents and community access adults and youth.

Info: 520-883-3024, Desertmuseum.org

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