will be on exhibit at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska from June 1 until September 30, 2014.
This special smaller exhibition focusing on North America will be in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1963.
The Wildlife Experience Museum; Denver, CO
The Wildling Art Museum; Santa Barbara, CA
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Tucson, AZ
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum; Oradell, NJ
Kenosha Public Museum; Kenosha, WI
Below are images and captions for the fifty paintings included in the current exhibition. Clicking on any image will reveal a larger version of it.
HARRIS' HAWK & COMMON CHUCKWALLA (2006)
acrylic 37" x 27" Accumulations of rock make wonderful habitat for many lizard species. They provide a wide temperature gradient that makes it easy for the animals to thermoregulate, basking on a sun-exposed surface to elevate their body temperature and retreating into a cool crevice to lower it. Such crevices also afford safe fortification against most predators. Among the most rock-adapted reptiles are the five Chuckwalla species of the genus Sauromalus, found in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, including a number of islands in the Sea of Cortés, where three species are endemic. The Common Chuckwalla (S. ater) is typical of the group. With a high optimal body temperature, it spends a lot of time basking on exposed rocks, usually near a crevice which it will slide into at the hint of danger. If pressed, it will gulp air and inflate its body, making it quite impossible to pull out. Harris' Hawk (Parabuteo unicictus) is a unique raptor species of the American tropics. Normally shunning thick jungles, it haunts llanos, chaco, chaparral and scrub forest in the drier parts of that region, ranging as far north as the southern tip of Nevada. Fast and powerful, this social bird feeds on a variety of prey, from rabbits and ducks to reptiles. Incidental subjects in this painting include a Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus ), honey ants (Myrmecosus sp.), Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), and Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae).
AGARRANDO LA MAÑANA—BLACK VULTURES (1994)
India ink wash 24" x 30"The vultures of the Americas are very different from their Old World namesakes, which are relatives of eagles. Of the eight species of New World vulture, which are closer kin to storks, three can be observed in the Sonoran Desert: the California Condor, the Turkey Vulture, and the species depicted here, the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). The idea for this piece was born while topping a ridge on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula one morning, when I spied a distant group of black vultures enjoying the dawn’s first rays in typical vulturine style. The birds were sunning in bright light, but the still thick jungle fog separating us obscured their images, simplifying their forms into boldly abstract shapes of two tones: the illuminated and the shaded. I quickly sketched some designs based on what I saw, which I planned to later organize into a painting. Black vultures are common throughout the American tropics and are plentiful and tame in many towns, so I expected to have little trouble finding cooperative models from which to render some more detailed drawings, once I had rough sketches of the basic design I wanted. As plans often are, these were soon frustrated, and as I made my way east, sunning vultures would invariably fold their wings once I removed my pack and fumbled for a pad and pencil. I was finally reduced to sleeping in the local dump outside of Antón, Panama, and positioning myself next to a favorite roost before daylight, where the final drawing for this piece was at last executed.
acrylic 30" x 25"Just where on the reptile family tree to put the worm lizards, or amphisbaenians, has long been a puzzle for taxonomists. Traditionally lumped with the lizards, these days they're more often given their own suborder alongside the snakes and lizards. What ever their systematics, their appearance and habits share more in common with earthworms than reptiles. Spending most of their lives below ground, they progress with a worm-like, peristaltic movement of their body segments. On the surface, they can move in a more typical serpentine fashion. Most amphisbaenians are found in tropical Africa and South America, but a few are found as far north as the Mediterranean, and in the Americas to Florida and northwestern Mexico. Unlike other amphisbaenians, the wormlike visage of the little-known Mexican genus Bipes is rather spoiled by the presence of a pair of stout digging forelimbs. Like the rest of their group, none of whom bear visible limbs, the 3-4 known Bipes species dig by forcing their hard little noses into the soil and moving them back and forth. The forelimbs are used to push loosened soil out of the way. They seem to subsist mostly upon termites and ants, and sometimes forage upon the surface at night. Two Bipes species occur in Michoacán and Guerrero, but the best-known of the group, B. biporus, is found in Baja California, where it is known as the Ajolote. A number of very poorly documented records from other parts of Mexico, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska, suggest that it may be more widespread than believed. In this painting, an Ajolote forages about a rotting fencepost on termites of the genus Reticulitermes.
BLACK SKIMMER (2003)
acrylic 29" x 36"
A BRICK HOUSE— ENGLISH SPARROW & PAPER WASP (1992)
acrylic 27" x 23"
CALIFORNIA CONDOR (2005)
oil 72" x 108"Giant condors were successful and important components of the North American Pleistocene fauna, but began to decline about 13,000 years ago, with the decimation of mammoths, ground sloths, and other huge mammals generally attributed to the Clovis culture. By 1985 a mere 27 California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) remained, and the bold decision to take the entire population into captivity was made. The captive propagation program has been successful, increasing the population to more than 200 today. Nearly half of these birds have been released and live, semi-wild, in California and Arizona, including a wild-fledged bird from 2002. The species is still far from recovered, though, and is continually dependent on human management. The mortality rate, mostly from power-line collisions and lead bullet ingestion, still far exceeds wild births. Reintroduced condors show problematic behavior like extreme tameness, and lead poisoning has caused most of the Arizona birds to be re-trapped for chelation therapy. This life-sized painting mounts flat against the ceiling.
EASTERN KINGBIRD & LONG-EARED OWL (2011)
India ink wash & watercolor on paper 22" x 16"
Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) nest and roost in heavy woods, which is where we normally see them, but at night when they're foraging, they are creatures of open meadows; here in the Rocky Mountains, they frequently hunt in sage steppes. In this painting I took away the normal button-eyed expression of the Long-eared Owl and replaced it with one of dismay and abject annoyance. Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) have a red crown patch that's almost always completely obscured by black feathers. As kind of a joke, I used a touch of watercolor to show those red feathers peeking through.
COAST HORNED LIZARD (1998)
acrylic 26" x 38"This piece was designed to look as austere as the Mojave desert that it depicts. The subject, a Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum) is centered on the board within very simple arcking lines, eating honey ants (Myrmecocystus sp.), ants being the usual horned lizard fare. A total of fourteen species of horned lizards populate most of western North America, from southern British Columbia to Guatemala. They are a pretty uniform lot, small lizards (the giant among them is a Mexican brute of eight inches), flattened and covered with spines. The species depicted and one other are known to have the ability to squirt a potential predator with blood issued from the corner of their eye. This capacity was reported for over a century in popular lore and has been doubted by many, and only recently confirmed conclusively. The response seems to be an anti-coyote device, which accounts for the usual inability for non-canid creatures like us to elicit it. In this painting the subjects were drawn about twice life-size, something I rarely do.
India ink wash 35" x 22"The powerful Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaeotos) is holarctic in distribution, meaning it is found across the northern hemisphere. In North America, it is mostly a creature of the west, and is largely a predator of jackrabbits (Lepus spp.), but it is an adaptable predator that will exploit what is available. Its large size confers upon its flight an illusion of lethargy, but in reality, it is a swift and commanding aerialist capable of taking a variety of flying prey. Mated pairs often hunt cooperatively, adding a level of advantage in such situations. I know of a pair in Utah that feed almost exclusively on Ravens (Corvus corax). Here, a Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus), North America's large desert falcon, evades the stoop of a marauding Golden.
JAGUAR & COLLARED PECCARIES (1994)
oil 40" x 50"The only modern big cat of the New World, the Jaguar (Panthera onca) ranges from northern Argentina to the southwestern U.S. Until the end of the Pleistocene, it occurred throughout the southeastern states, and seems to have been especially common in Florida. Over the past century, its presence north of Mexico has probably consisted of little more than occasional young males dispersing from Mexico. An old male Jaguar that had roamed southern Arizona for a number of years died in 2009. These cats are generalist predators, feeding on a wide range of quarry, but in the northern part of their range, the piglike Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) or Javelina is by far the most important. Here, one of these great cats prepares to charge a group of peccaries in a deciduous scrub forest. The colors and lighting of this habitat, especially during the dry season, when many of the trees have lost their leaves, are quite peculiar unto themselves and inspired me to try to characterize them with this sort of “hyper-pointilism” technique.
PHANTOMS OF THE MOJAVE—BANDED GECKO (2010)
acrylic 30" x 25"In the southwestern U.S. and adjacent Mexico, the Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus) occurs in a number of desert habitats. This strictly nocturnal lizard remains well hidden until after dark. On moonlit nights, its translucent body almost gleams, and it's easy to spot as it stalks its arthropod prey, its tail writhing, catlike. Here, a Western Banded Gecko is framed by iconic southwest desert plants, as it descends the woody skeleton of a dead cholla (Opuntia sp.) before the nocturnal, trumpet-like blossom of a Western Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii), well-known for its toxic and hallucinatory effects caused by the alkaloids atropine and scopolamine. Also visible is a Jimson Beetle (Lema daturaphila), the adults and larvae of which feed on Jimsonweed and other members of the potato family, Solanaceae.
acrylic 36" x 26"Hibernation is one of the more effective strategies temperate animals have developed to survive winter's cold temperatures and lack of food resources. Many birds, bats and even insects opt instead for seasonal migration, exploiting distant habitats during different seasons. A few, like the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and the Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) use a combination of the two. Poorwills, relatives of nighthawks, breed in arid parts of western North America from southern Canada into northern Mexico; northern individuals seem to winter in the desert southwest. A number of bird species use daily torpor to minimize energy loss during cool nights or brief bad weather. Members of three related orders, the goatsuckers, hummingbirds and possibly the swifts, all show some abilities at metabolic adjustment, but none to the degree of the little Poorwill, which, in addition to its natural tendencies toward torpor, feeds heavily on beetles, rich in polyunsaturated fats, which remain liquid and metabolically available at low temperatures. In the laboratory, Poorwills have been observed sustaining periods of torpor for over 80 days, and in the wild as long as 25 days. A shallow shelter, open to the southern sun is selected: a patch of cactus or rock niche to which the bird develops substantial fidelity. After sundown, the torpid Poorwill's body temperature begins to fall, until the ambient temperature reaches 5.5?C, an apparent optimum hibernating level which the bird tries to maintain. Solar radiation raises the body temperature daily, presumably allowing the option to forage during warm nights. I know of no human witnesses to a Poorwill rousing from torpor in the wild, but I imagine the bird backing out of his shelter to fully bask in the final evening rays, periodically flapping his wings to elevate his body temperature. It's not known how severe a winter these birds can survive, but a sufficient winter insect population, rather than temperature, is probably the limiting factor. Rather than showing the kind of country where Poorwills are known to commonly winter, I tried in this painting to depict a habitat in the harshest extreme that I could imagine the bird toughing out. Also shown reviving are Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflora), Convergent Ladybird Beetles (Hippodamia convergens), Western Boxelder Bug (Boisea rubrolineata), and snowfleas (Hypogastrura sp.), cold-adapted springtails that climb onto the snow's surface to feed on algae.
STARGAZING--PEREGRINE FALCON (2008)
India ink wash 21" x 30"
THREE MORE WORLDS— RAINBOW TROUT & OSPREY (1998)
acrylic 35" x 26"
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (2004)
acrylic 30" x 24"The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) haunts coastal marshes from Massachusetts to Brazil, and Panamá to Perú on the Pacific side. It also occurs on the Galápagos and throughout the West Indies. Unlike its nearly cosmopolitan cousin the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), which hunts fish from dawn to dusk, the Yellow-crowned often stalks the crustaceans that make up the bulk of its diet at midday. In recent years this species has increased its range in the United States as far west as Illinois. Yellow-crowned Night herons also breed on Baja California as well as the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortés. The butterfly on the bank belongs to the genus Eunica.
CRASH-BARRIER WALTZER—BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (2005)
acrylic 37” x 27”
PRAIRIE SENTINEL--PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE & AMERICAN BISON (2002)
acrylic 25” x 52”
acrylic 37" x 27"
At around twenty inches in length, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was North America's largest woodpecker. Never a common bird, it once haunted virgin cypress swamps and bottomland forests throughout the southeastern U.S. By the end of the nineteenth century its imminent extinction was feared, and the last confirmed sighting was in the late 1950's. Sporadic events since that time point to the possibility that some of these birds may still endure: a handful of questionable photographs, numerous unconfirmed sightings, and a 2002 recording originally identified as a drumming male, but later shown to be a distant shotgun. In the spring of 2004, a brief video taken in Arkansas's White River Refuge was widely accepted at first as an Ivorybill, but later dismissed by many authorities as a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). Incidental creatures in the painting include a Zebra Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), a Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) and Palm Warblers (Dendroica palmarum).
APRIL HIBERNACULUM (2011)
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 12”Rattlesnakes survive cold winters by hibernating, usually communally, in small caverns called hibernacula. Returning to the site in autumn, they spend more time inside the hibernaculum as the weather gets colder, and daytime sunning sessions outside of the entrance become less frequent as they become less effective. The process is reversed in the spring, with the snakes spending a week or so sleeping in the cavern at night and basking outside during the warmest hours before finally dispersing. Until a decade ago, the rattlesnakes of much of the western U.S. were considered members of a single species, Crotalus viridis. Since then, it's become clear that C. viridis represented a large complex that taxonomists are still trying to disentangle. The Great Basin Rattlesnake, which ranges from southeastern Oregon through most of Nevada, western Utah and southern Idaho, has gone from a subspecies of C. viridis to a subspecies of C. oreganus, the first species to be split from the group. Today, it's generally given its own species, C. lutusos, which is likely to see further future splitting.
These last five paintings are reconstructions of Mesozoic fauna of western North America.
acrylic 18” x 15” It's a shame to lose the best-known of all dinosaur names, but thanks to a century-old mix-up involving two specimens, one with the wrong head, being described as representing different genera, Brontosaurus was recently abandoned in favor of the precedent Apatosaurus. It was once speculated that the long necks of these sauropods allowed them to browse high in the treetops or even to breath while deep underwater, but closer study found that the neck musculature could not elevate the structure vertically. More likely, it merely allowed them to reach a considerable amount of plant food without having to move their massive bodies, as the painting illustrates. Apatosaurus lived about 150 million years ago, during the Kimmeridgian and Tithonian ages of the Jurassic period. Its fossils have been found in sites in Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
acrylic 18” x 15”Unlike its contemporary Apatosaurus, the massive Brachiosaurus could hold its head high, and probably specialized in browsing the leaves of tall trees that were unavailable to most other land herbivores—so much so, that it was probably restricted to well-forested areas. Its front legs were much longer than the hind legs, giving it a steeply-sloping, giraffe-like back. With high nostrils and large, blade-like teeth, its head was distinctive. Very few good fossils from this genus have turned up, all of them in western Colorado. Brachiosaurus lived during the Tithonian age of the Jurassic period—about 145 million years ago.
acrylic 18” x 15” One of the best known dinosaurs from the Morrison Formation of western North America is the rather small, 12-foot-long Dryosaurus. There is some controversy over whether to place Dryosaurus in the hypsilophodontid family or into a family within the iguanodontia. One of the most interesting aspects of this creature is the frequency with which fossils of very young individuals have been found. This is one of the few dinosaurs for which we have a very good idea of the appearance of hatchlings. A site in Colorado yielded some 2,500 bone fragments, nearly all of which belonged to young Dryosaurus, along with eggshells. It seems reasonable to presume this was a nest. Dryosaurus lived during the Kimmeridgian and Tithonian ages of the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago.
acrylic 18” x 15” Towards the end of the Cretaceous period, there seems to have been a marked decrease in biodiversity, with a very few groups enjoying great success. Most successful of all of these were the hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs. With its gracefully curved crest, Parasaurolophus was apparently very common through much of western North America during the Campanian age of the Cretaceous, from 76 to 73 million years ago. The function of the conspicuous crest has been the subject of much speculation. Probably it served as a social signal and possibly a resonating chamber for vocalizations as well. In the background, a pair of the primitive bird Avisaurus roost together.
acrylic 18” x 15” The sauropod dinosaurs reached their peak of diversity during the Jurassic Period, but members of the group survived to the very end. One of the very last dinosaurs was Alamosaurus, which roamed what is now the southwestern U.S. during the Maastrichtian age of the Cretaceous period, up to 65 million years ago. Here an Alamosaurus herd moves along the edge of a large late Cretaceous lake.