Author: bztat

Urban Wildlife Painting Exhibit now on display at Malone University

Urban Wildlife painting exhibit at Malone University by artist BZTAT

For several months now, I have been working on a series of paintings for an exhibit at Malone University in Canton, OH. The paintings are of animals who share the Canton, OH community with an urban and suburban population of human beings. I call the series “Urban Wildlife”, as their habitat has increasingly become a concrete jungle of urban sprawl.

I wrote about three of these paintings and the animals that inspired them in previous posts (deer, skunk, goose). I will likely write about more of the animals, in fact, I am hoping to make a book about the paintings with reflections on their inspirations. All in due time.

For now, though, I thought I would share the Artist Statement that accompanies the Malone Exhibit here. It is below. The exhibit will be in the Fountain Gallery until December 7, 2019 in the Johnson Center at 2600 Cleveland Ave NW. I hope you get a chance to see it!


Urban Wildlife of Stark County
Painting Series by Artist BZTAT

There is something beautiful about driving around late at night when there is no one else awake but the night creatures that inhabit the city. The approach of my car startles them. They take notice of me, and they ponder whether they should flee or stand their ground. They regard me as my headlights capture their visage. I regard them too, with a mix of fascination and wonder. It is just them and me, and I see them – really SEE them – words fail to describe the encounter.

For about a year and half, this was my nightly adventure. To earn extra money to supplement my art business, I took on a paper route for a time that required that I make my deliveries in the early morning hours. Every night, I crept around three local neighborhoods, delivering the Canton Respository to subscribers, and observing the nightly goings on of the urban wildlife that make Canton, OH and Stark County their home.

Ordinary creatures, perhaps. These are not exotic creatures from Africa or the outback. All too often they are what we call “road kill” as we pass their lifeless carcasses on the highway. We share our community with them, and yet, we often dismiss them as pests or annoyances. The sad irony is that we have encroached on their habitat. It is they who have suffered the consequences of our urban sprawl.

Great beauty can be found in the ordinary, and great beauty can be found in the brief interaction between woman and beast. Since words fail to describe that beauty, I have endeavored to recreate my urban wildlife encounters with images. In each painting in this series of 12 acrylic paintings on wood, I have tried to share a moment of regard between myself and a wild animal in my community.

Not all of the creatures rendered in this series are night dwellers. As I immersed myself in this painting project, I decided to paint animals that I have encountered during the daylight hours as well. Although the initial inspiration came from my nightly travels, I extended my creative exploration to day creatures, too. All of the animals rendered are native to Stark County, OH. They are named as “Night Stalkers” and “Day Stalkers” and numbered according to the order in which I painted them.

Each painting represents an encounter, a moment of regard, or an observation of an extraordinarily ordinary creature that shares a habitat with me.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Wait for it. There’s a cat in this goose story.

Canada Goose urban wildlife painting contemporary pop art BZTATAs I have written in recent posts about my Urban Wildlife Painting Series (deer and skunk), I have felt a special connection to my animal subjects because of my observations of them while delivering newspapers in the early hours of the morning. I have a special connection to Canada Geese as well, but for a different reason.

In the summer of 1995, a pipeline rupture filled the Tuscarawas River with oil near my home at the time in Bolivar, OH. The natural habitat for the creatures along the river was destroyed, and many animals were harmed. I heard a call for volunteers to help rescue the animals on the local news, so I jumped into action.

There were a few ducks and some domestic and hybrid geese brought in with oil on them, but most of the rescued animals were Canada Geese. There was a beaver and a muskrat and a few snakes and turtles, as well. Sadly, none of the herons brought in survived. Their systems were too fragile to overcome the physical and emotional stress caused by the oil.

My job as a volunteer was not a particularly glamorous one. I mostly prepared and cleaned the pens where the geese were kept. I learned quickly the meaning of “hissy fit” and “wild goose chase” (I often was the one being chased). Trust me when I tell you that cleaning newspapers fouled by goose poop is no fun chore. I was glad to do it though. I felt so sad for these birds who were harmed by mankind’s excess and recklessness.

I also had an opportunity to administer Pedialyte to a few birds (helps to restore their electrolytes) and I helped wash a couple of birds. Yes, they really do use Dawn Dishwashing Liquid for this process. Administering Pedialyte requires forcing a tube into the beak and down the throat of the bird.

So you could say that I have been about as up close and personal as you can get to a Canada Goose.

The process of cleaning and rehabbing the birds took about a week from the date of capture by rangers to the date of release. It was very hard on them. The stress of being oiled, the physical damage to their systems and the stress of captivity was rigorous for these natural creatures. Despite our best efforts, some perished during the rescue process, especially the youngest goslings. But many survived, and their resilience was astounding.

My experience with these geese during their most vulnerable moments left a deep impression on me.  They are proud birds, prancing about with their heads held high in a fanciful manner regardless of their circumstances. They have wills as strong as iron. They are comical in a way, yet tenacious and strong. They hiss and snarl at you, yet they are not violent, and they cause you no harm.

They are amazing creatures.

The goose population in urban areas is growing, and many people see them as pests. They sometimes hold up traffic as they march single file across roadways, and goose droppings can create a mess on sidewalks, parking lots and walking paths. But honestly, we are causing them more disruption than they are to us. And they put up with us.

On my last day as a wildlife rescue volunteer, I was allowed to view the release of a large group of Canada Geese back to the wild (Hybrids and domestic geese were released to farms with ponds as they cannot be released back to the wild.) One by one, the rangers lined up the special carriers, each containing a goose, along the newly cleaned riverbed. They opened the carriers all at once, and the birds started marching out. A few seconds passed as they marched forward, then, all at the same time, they took flight and sailed above the water with grace and command.

And we all bawled our eyes out, watching them regain their freedom after they had endured such an ordeal.

I do not believe that I have ever in my life experienced a moment like that before, and I doubt I ever will again.

As the title indicates, there was a cat in this story too. 

One day when I arrived for my volunteer shift to look after the geese, I saw a pet carrier near the wildlife area of the building that housed the rescue efforts. Inside the carrier was a small tortoise shell cat with gold eyes staring out, purring and looking for attention. Of course, I could not resist giving her the attention she desired.

The rangers said that it had taken them 2 days to catch her as she romped along the oily riverbed. They did not want to leave her, because she appeared to have oil on her, but as it turned out, it was not oil, just the dark markings of her tortoise shell coat.

Long story short, Slick came home with me and she was my loving pet for many years to follow (You can read more about Slick here and here).

As I have done with my other posts about the Urban Wildlife Painting Series, I have chosen a musical selection to augment the story behind the painting. I often think of that moment when the geese took flight when I hear Michael Hedges’ “Aerial Boundaries”. It reminds me that obstacles and limitations can be overcome, when you consider that the sky has no boundaries.

View the entire Urban Wildlife Series in an exhibit at the Johnson Center at Malone University from October 28 – December 7, 2019.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Happy is the Skunk – Urban Wildlife Painting Series

Skunk urban wildlife painting contemporary pop art BZTATFewer creatures stop us in our tracks the way that a skunk does. The unique defense mechanisms that skunks have against predators fill us with fear and derision. The telltale odor of a skunk places the species in a unique category of the most obnoxious animal know to mankind.

If you keep your distance and observe these creatures going about their business, however, you will discover that they are fascinating animals.

Skunks have beautiful black and white fur that looks soft and luxurious (I have never dared to touch one, so I don’t really know what their fur feels like). Each one has a slightly different pattern. Some are more black than white, while others have greater areas of white that almost obscure their black areas of color. 

They move across a lawn with a bouncy/wavy sort of motion. The movement is both graceful and playful, with a sort of comedic style to it. They typically are solitary creatures as they move about quietly in the twilight hours.

They appear happy-go-lucky to me. I think of Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” when I see them bouncing along through the urban landscape. It is ironic that a creature so reviled by mankind seems completely oblivious to our derision, and thoroughly enjoys itself as it moves along its path.

As I shared in a previous post, I have spent a lot of time in the last year and a half observing wildlife creatures in my city of Canton, OH as I delivered newspapers in the early morning hours of the day. The animals that I have observed have inspired me, and I am articulating that inspiration in a series of paintings. I have seen many skunks in my travels. I have also, ahem, smelled their presence many times when I did not see them. A skunk painting (see above) had to be a central part of the series.

You can view the entire Urban Wildlife Series in an exhibit at the Johnson Center at Malone University from October 28 – December 7, 2019. You can also watch my painting progress in social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I hope my paintings inspire you to look at these animals in new ways as the animals have inspired me to do.

Hum the tune to “Happy” the next time you see a skunk, and I guarantee you will never look at them the same way again.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT