By Jennie Lay
Nature and art have a long symbiotic relationship. At the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, that focus is narrowed to a bird’s eye view. Since 1976, the museum’s annual avian art competition has showcased the work of more than 950 international artists. The compositions offer an intriguing perspective into not only birds’ physiology and behavior, but their diverse habitats and how they interact in the world.
“Birds in Art” is a nationally traveling exhibit from the Woodson competition that touches down at the Steamboat Art Museum this summer. The local museum will host 45-50 pieces of mixed-media avian art, including sculpture, oil, graphite, bronze, wood and marble. They will be installed downtown Steamboat Springs in an exhibit that runs from July 19-September 15, with extended visiting hours for August’s First Friday Artwalk (Aug. 1) and the Yampa Valley Crane Festival (Sept. 12-15).
Witness birds perched on modern machinery and the ruins of ancient civilization, sharing symbiotic relationships with other animals, and reveling in indigenous wild habitat. Look for detailed studies as well as broader landscapes featuring birds in nature. “Birds in Art” has gained notoriety as the standard-bearer for avian art.
“This is an international exhibit I’ve wanted to bring into the museum for so long. We got on the list years ago,” says Steamboat Art Museum president and curator Shirley Stocks. “Part of the unique thing about this exhibit is it’s coinciding with the crane festival.”
A variety of educational community workshops will complement “Birds in Art.” With specifics still hatching at press time, plans include a bird drawing workshop, including anatomy and bird behavior; a bird photography workshop; a tea and interpretive lecture for seniors; and hands-on opportunities for kids to deepen their experience with the exhibit. In addition, a Steamboat Art Museum fundraiser will coincide with the exhibit, featuring bird houses designed by local artists.
“Shirley has a great feel for what works in this town, and she has the contacts,” says Steamboat Art Museum executive director Lo Matthews. “It’s a real honor to get this exhibit.”
As one spectator told the Wall Street Journal during the exhibit’s unveiling in Wisconsin, this is “the best indoor bird watching on the planet.”