Sunday, December 22, 2013

Catherine McClung Celebrates the American Kestrel, Depicting America's "Prettiest Little Falcon" in a Recent Watercolor. #ClassicCaptain

Catherine McClung, a wildlife artist living in Spring Lake, has admiration for John James Audubon and understands why Audubon had to slay birds for study. He had no other option. When Audubon was painting wild fowl for The Birds of America, he hired hunters to collect specimens for study. He participated in the hunting, making clean, neat kills with fine shot. Audubon propped these into natural positions, using wires to make these poses flexible. He even demonstrated the method to a learned society with Charles Darwin in the audience. Audubon's work had many collectors in Great Britain, and King George IV and members of the Royal Society subscribed to Audubon's book of plates, beginning a great tradition of wildlife art and science.

McClung can accomplish her studies of birds by taking a walk around Spring Lake with her binoculars, camera and field guides, works of reference inspired by Audubon's studies. She can also consult the pictures of her photographer friends, foremost Stacy Niedzwiecki, well-known for her insightful images of snipes and relatives in the Jordan River Valley. Niedzwiecki knows exactly how her snipe is going to land. McClung can see raptors up close at one of several rehabilitation clinics, including Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids and Braveheart Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Twin Lake, which was open to the public Thursday, July 11th for a bimonthly open house. Audubon's work laid the foundation for a kinder and gentler age of avian art.

During a visit to the Howell Nature Center, her attention was captivated by an American Kestrel, a male, America's prettiest little falcon to her mind. She had already painted the female of the species, with her different plumage. McClung paints her birds in context, often perched on plants from their habitat, manifesting seasonal colors. Working from her photographs, she brightened the colors and placed her male Kestrel on a post during evening light. In conversation today, McClung explained how Kestrels can hover above fields to hunt with sharp eyes, facing even the slightest headwind. Following the wildlife art of McClung is certain to bring out ones inner ornithologist after one exhibition.McClung's images, part of June's Natural Influence exhibition at Uptown Gallery, made me remember visiting a banding center at the base of Ontario's Long Point, a peninsula of land that juts out forty kilometers into Lake Erie and serves as a migratory funnel every May.

During Grand Haven Art Walk 2011, Catherine McClung and her husband began an enchantment with the passenger pigeon paintings of Lewis Lumen Cross, the Audubon of Ottawa County who had painted the flocking birds long after the last one passed in 1914. The couple began exploring the world of Cross, discovering the concrete castle he built on the Deremo Bayou, on the Grand River. The two even contacted major collectors of Cross's works, who had no interest in selling. Cross worked as Audubon did, taking birds from the air with shot and mounting for reference. Cross preserved a passenger pigeon, now on display at the Lakeshore Museum Center by a restored painting of the pigeons filling the air above a river, perhaps the Pigeon River of Cross's childhood. On a bird hike through the cemetery south of the Spring Lake Country Club, Catherine McClung found herself drawn down a row of stones and found the marker for Cross's last resting place.

McClung participates in shows to market her work when she's not busy judging art exhibits, such as the Wings show now on display until July 13th at the Nuveen Center in downtown Montague. From July 17 to the 20th, she'll exhibit and sell her work for the 33rd year at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Stop by Booth B512 on Maynard Street and talk bird behavior with her as you explore her collection of originals and prints.

No comments:

Post a Comment