Anderson Turner

Animals, and frankly the rest of our natural world, demand our attention. Sometimes we are not willing to give nature the time of day. Yet often when we take a photograph or think of a work art that is meaningful to us, we think of pieces with natural subjects, like a landscape painting.

So, is it any surprise that there has been some resistance from the masses to art work that does not have as easy a subject to grasp and comprehend? Further, when the cutting edge of the art world seems to be oriented not to any one genre, but rather an ďart by any meansĒ state of mind, should we be surprised that certain traditional elements of the visual arts get lost in the shuffle? How are artists able to maintain their identity?

One way artists keep their sense of community and professionalism is by forming guilds or groups. One such group, the Society of Animal Artists, has its member show, Art and the Animal, on display at the Canton Museum of Art.

The show is truly a ďsomething for everyoneĒ exhibition and would be fun for the whole family. One thing to do while looking at the works is to notice which artists won awards, and see if you agree with the choices. I found that I personally was often more impressed with different works than those chosen for awards.

Thatís also the fun of a show like this. There are surprises and talents on display in often unexpected places and we all see things in different ways.

One of the works that spoke the most to me was by Cynthie Fisher, titled Ambush! The work is a large oil painting of a herd of zebras being stalked by a lioness. While itís hyper-realistic, it still maintains a painterly gestural quality, and the lines of the animals help to create tension that makes the piece fun to explore. Once you add to it the lioness in the background, you can transport yourself to this location by imagining how it sounds and smells.

Like all good paintings, it has more than one thing going for it. Itís expressive and relatable in more than one aspect, and it transcends meaning.

Another work that stuck out to me was an oil painting of a mountain lion titled Out on a Limb, by John Perry Baumlin. The lion stands out on a tree limb overlooking an area that looks a lot like the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States.

Having lived in that area for several years, I can only hope that this image is real. It would be nice to think that mountain lions still roam, even in small numbers.

Of course, perhaps thatís whatís also most intriguing about this show: These works idealize and memorialize moments in time similar to how photography does, but they do so in a way that is often much more significant and meaningful. You can feel the artists reaching and working to understand the animalsí shapes and attitude.

Truth be told, while I was preparing this article, I had to run home and round up five of my hogs that had somehow gotten loose. There goes nature demanding my attention again. One of the realities of farm life is that itís a lot of hard work. While I love thinking of idealized moments as much as the next person, I also know that they can turn in an instant.

The museum has a show in concert with this one titled Field & Stream: Natureís Beauty from the Permanent Collection. It displays what a gem the Canton Museum of Art is and why you should support it. Field & Stream has many idealized images of nature too, but it also has some Thomas Hart Benton works that give a more realistic view of life in natureís path.

It should be noted that Benton, who is best known for his expressive works that showcased rural life, was also an accomplished teacher. Perhaps his best known student was none other than Jackson Pollock, whom many can only imagine as an abstract painter.

So much of what we see in the arts has connections beyond the obvious. Who can calculate the impact music or theater has on other artists? Can we assume that abstract painting is not in any way related to other types of painting in research of form, color and meaning?

Itís interesting to look at a show like this and think about time. How will we view visual arts in 20 to 30 years and who will be the most noted and popular? What impact will technology continue to have?

The important thing is that we support visual artists and their lifelong desire to learn, something we should all strive for. Exhibits like this one are fun ways to get the whole family involved in this type of thought process.

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com.