The wonders and wiles of animals running wild in the artist’s imagination

Nova Czarnecki, “Return to Me, ” oil painting,  $4500

Heretofore, I’ve refrained from reviewing an art show that I am participating in. However, I’ll simply announce, with a bit of comment, this is the last week to see Feather, Fur, Scale and Tail at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center St. Milwaukee. The show runs through Saturday, June 18. This delightful celebration and exploration of animals is ingenious, diverse, colorful and textural, and rich in symbolism and beauty. Yet it is not without acknowledging the darkness that shadows the animal world from within, and from without, the perpetual threat of humans. 

It includes one of a series of pastel and ink drawings I have made, inspired by Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby-Dick. The one on exhibit depicts a scene in the first of the novel’s three climactic chapters, “The Chase-The First Day.” The image is titled “Ishmael Intuits the End from the Crows Nest.” The book’s narrator Ishmael is visible in the far background, at the top of the ship, as the whaling boat with Captain Ahab and Ishmael’s friend, first harpoonist Queequeg, approach The White Whale in the foreground. 

Kevin Lynch, “Ishmael Intuits the End from the Crow’s Nest.” pastel and ink. Not for Sale 

But the show is filled with excellent work: from the lovely gestural simplicity of a blackbird sitting on a branch in Carol Rode-Curley’s watercolor-like pastel, “Resting Raven,” to John-Mark Klapperich’s complex visual jokes — wall assemblages of metal objects transformed into animals. Among the most vivid actual encounters with an animal is “Sweet Pea,” Mary Lee Agnew’s photo capturing the ever-elusive fox, with ears so large you imagine him a winged mythical creature, caught for a fleeting moment, amid wind-blown leaps of prairie grass. (All pictured below)

More myth (as in artful truth-telling) seems to reside in, for me, a true highlight — Nova Czarnecki’s large (48” x 60”) oil painting “Return to Me” (at top). This seems a  (self?) portrait of an earth mother dwelling in watery depths and attracting creatures from the air, the land and the very currents wherein she sits with a mystical regality.

Most works are for sale, and are visible online. or in the gallery. Here’s a link to the online viewing, with gallery hours and information: https://jazzgallerycenterforarts.org/gallery-exhibits/2022/5/14/feather-fur-scale-and-tail

Carol Rode-Curley, “Resting Raven,” pastel, $300

John-Mark Klapperich, “Patina Sprockets,” assemblage sculpture, Not for Sale

Mary Lee Agnew, “Sweet Pea,” photography, $150

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