Museum Tour Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
Introduction by Todd Wilkinson
Author, Last Stand: Ted Turner`s Quest To Save A Troubled Planet
Imagine a line of seven vertical panels, visually interlocking, that serve as an epic picture window opening into an Edenic panorama of Africa.
The centerpiece is ten-feet high and five-feet wide. It stands three-feet off the ground reaching a height of more than one story tall. It is flanked by six other panels that form a wide-angle vision into the arc of the savannah. It engages us. It invites us in. It makes us think. It appeals to seasoned travelers and it commands awe from children . . .
Filling the scenes are dramatic portrayals of predators and prey as only Brian Jarvi can paint them. It is a grand idyllic montage. As one point of visual entry, we, as primates, relate to the point of view of a bonobo, a pygmy chimpanzee, seated on an elephant. He is looking down on a human in the scene, which symbolically represents humanity. In this grandeur we are confronted with the possibility that all of it could disappear.
What Brian Jarvi endeavors to create is something momentously novel—a grand panoramic that invites viewers to become a participant in the experience. Jarvi`s ambitious concept is without rival among his living contemporaries in wildlife art.
Regarded as one of the finest dramatic painters in the wildlife genre, Jarvi is also a conservationist who seeks to address ecological challenges through his art. An African Menagerie: The Inquisition addresses an extinction crisis that presently confronts six major species.
Unlike extinctions going back to the age of dinosaurs, the current episode is the only one that has occurred during the tenure of Homo sapiens—Man. The spiraling loss of biological diversity, prominent ecologists say, stands to erase many of the Earth`s iconic megafauna and other smaller animals that imbue our quality of life with wild richness.
The compelling question that Jarvi posses through his art is this: Are we as a society going to let extinction happen on our watch? Or will we take action? He does not see it framed as a partisan issue. For him, it is a moral and ethical question that strikes at the very heart of our ability as a species to empathize with the plight of other life forms.
Earth`s ecological crisis is most starkly visible, he says, in sub-Saharan Africa, a setting that, to date, has been featured in many of Jarvi`s most acclaimed paintings.
From jungles around the equator where mountain gorillas and chimpanzees barely endure in scattered pockets, southward to the Serengeti Plain, Kalahari Desert, Okavango Delta, and the velds of South Africa and Zimbabwe, the animals whose very iconic presence pronounces wildness to billions are dwindling at alarming rates.
Consider the roster: black and white rhinoceros, elephant, zebra, lion, leopard, cheetah, Cape buffalo, and giraffe. Some are being lost to rampant poaching, others to the effects of war and human poverty, habitat destruction and the onset of climate change. Most, however, are confronting a combination of all of the above.
For many North Americans, awareness of what`s occurring is minimized by the geographic distance between here and there. Jarvi wants to close the gap using art as a bridge.
Documenting this project is a coffee-table book by Todd Wilkinson, author of such books as Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, and Kent Ullberg: Monuments to Nature, with an Introduction by Robert Bateman. The book is published by Rizzoli International, New York. For additional information, visit: African Menagerie : A Celebration of Nature.
The complete exhibition of AFRICAN MENAGERIE premiered at The Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University, KS from October 1 to December 21, 2017; and toured from January 20 to April 5, 2018 to the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, NJ in the New York City Metropolitan area; and from April 26 to July 15, 2018 to the Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH. Additional venues were added to the tour including: September 19 – October 7, 2018, ArtPrize, DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids, MI; January 31 – February 3, 2019, Safari Club Insertional, Reno Sparks Convention Center, Reno, NV; and early 2019 (dates to be announced), Minnesota State Capital, Saint Paul, MN. Tour updates are available at: African Menagerie Tour
Photography Credit: Steven M. Tiggemann, TiggCreative
- David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
- Curator/Tour Director
- David J. Wagner, L.L.C., Exhibition Tour Office
- Office: (414) 221-6878
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