NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI – Things got crazy at the Wickford Art Association as the annual Fur, Feathers, Fins exhibit, which features works of art inspired by a wide variety of creatures large and small in a wide variety of mediums, is on display at the North Kingstown Gallery through March 7.
â(The exhibition) is quite diverse this year and it’s a wonderful balance between photography, painting and 3D sculpture,â said Catherine Gagnon, director of the WAA gallery. âThe variety offered in terms of animals is quite large. We’ve got everything from insects and reptiles, fish, birds, man’s best friend, and a few exotic animals.
Normally the show takes place in April, but Gagnon said a variety of factors prompted the WAA to move the show for a few months.
âWe planned it a bit earlier this year because last year it was probably the exhibit that was most disrupted by the COVID-19 shutdown across the state,â Gagnon said. âWe planned it a bit early as well to align with the common public school vacation week, which is this week, as it’s a very family-friendly exhibit featuring animals and art throughout. mediums. (There are) a lot of sculptures this year, and it’s a really great exhibit for families, so we wanted to make sure it was accessible during the vacation week.
The exhibition features 72 pieces in a wide variety of media, particularly photography, sculpture, and painting, and was judged by WAA jury member artist Betsey MacDonald, a junior jurist and former teacher in biology, chemistry and art that combined his love of animals and anatomy with paint to create hundreds of animal portraits.
â(She) is an extraordinary artist who brings her in-depth knowledge of animal science to her own art,â said Gagnon. “She does a lot of animals in her painting work and you can really tell that she understands animal anatomy and biology to a very high degree in her own work so she brought a very interesting perspective to the show, genuinely seeking to choose pieces for the exhibition and awards (for pieces) that moved her in one way or another, so she was a tremendous first-time lawyer for us . “
In addition, Gagnon said she chose MacDonald as part of a concerted effort to make a difference with the WAA legal pool and give more opportunities to the artists on the organization’s jury.
âI have jurors from the past who join us for some shows, but I also maybe wanted to start a tradition that one of our jury members actually serves as a lawyer for one of our shows. alone rather than on a panel, because we have several exhibitions throughout the year where the pieces are selected by juries and the jury is always made up of these artists who are members of the jury, âsaid Gagnon. âIt’s kind of like this higher level of membership at Wickford Art. These people go through a process to be selected. They have to show their portfolios and really prove that their experience and expertise is broad and quite mature.
A staggered in-person opening and virtual opening gala were held on February 12 for the exhibit, including an awards show, with top honors going to Lisa May’s âMonkey Trio,â which is a sculpture in molded paper.
âIt’s absolutely extraordinary,â Gagnon said of the play. âThese are technically the three monkeys representing See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, but there is also a fourth juvenile monkey in the sculpture which hangs upside down from the other three. It is technically a piece of molded paper that supports a piece of glass in order to make it look like a table. It’s not the most functional table, but it looks absolutely stunning, so the room is all made of paper. The sculptures themselves, the shapes are stuffed with paper. They are dressed in paper. Their fur is paper. It’s absolutely an amazing piece and the photos somehow don’t even do it justice, you really have to see it in person.
âThis sculpture is so fun and meticulously made,â MacDonald wrote in his lawyer statement. “Lisa makes and shapes this paper and ends up with dancing monkeys in little colorful vests that are also made of paper, holding a piece of glassâ¦ It’s a beautifully crafted and cheerful work of art.”
Second place went to “Beach Music”, an oil painting by Ann Hagan Webb, while third place went to Marc Jaffe for his photographic work “Looking Out”. The Judge’s Awards went to “Messenger”, a gouache and collage on paper by Susan Sward and “No Social Distancing”, a 24 karat gold leaf encaustic, while honorable mentions went to acrylic. Paul Murray’s “Waiting” and “My World” by Jodi Manca, another piece that stood out for Gagnon because it featured an image of a polar bear taken on location in the Arctic.
âWe have a few photographers who exhibit regularly with us and are very proud to be there for their photographs, so we have one person, Paul Murray,â said Gagnon. âHe had three pieces in this show, two that are polar bears, one of which received honorable mention, and then alsoâ¦ a photo of two fawns. I don’t know where he captured this, but I do know he was in the arctic for the two polar bear photos, so it’s really exciting.
The diverse work comes from a variety of WAA artists from all walks of life, both personally and artistically, another point of pride for Gagnon.
âWe have people like (Murray) and then we have high school students who have a really great job in the show, so it’s a pretty broad representation of our members and our show community,â Gagnon said. .
Fur, Feathers, Fins, Gagnon said, tends to be one of the gallery’s most popular exhibits of the year, something she attributes to relativity and understanding animals that might not be also universally felt with other themes.
âI think there is an element to being able to identify with parts that is quite important,â said Gagnon. “With art exhibitions that explore more abstract concepts, you are going to end up with pieces that the general public won’t necessarily immediately understand, you may need to spend time understanding this piece, potentially discussing this piece. , in order to understand, understand it and appreciate it for its beauty or for its aesthetic value, but I think that with animals, animals are part of our daily world and therefore even if you look at a particular portrait of a dog, a chihuahua, lying in pile of blankets which is one of the plays on our show, i never had a chihuahua but i have had other animals and i felt the exact same feeling of watching my pet curled up in a pile of warm blankets, then there is connectivity that is more immediate.
Additionally, Gagnon said the show tends to be one of the most popular each year among families.
âI think because it’s a very family-friendly show it has in the past attracted families visiting our gallery and we really want to encourage it as much as possible because art is and should be for everyone, what whatever the age, âsaid Gagnon.
The exhibition runs until March 7 during gallery opening hours from Wednesday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., and can also be viewed in full online on the site. WAA’s web, although Gagnon says the WAA is trying to encourage more people to visit the gallery in person again.
âAt this point, we really want to encourage people to come back to the gallery because it’s a safe environment,â said Gagnon. âWe have worked very hard to follow all the COVID compliance regulations that the state has enacted. We’ve actually installed new air systems that are operational and purify the air inside the space to a very, very high level and we really want people to feel more able to come in, to enjoy and spend more time there.
The next show at WAA is Push-Pull-Print, which is scheduled to run from March 12 to April 3. For more information on the Wickford Art Association, visit their website, wickfordart.org.