Animals through the artist’s eye

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The international Society of Animal Artists is in its 51st year and has grown from the original nine members to about 500, who reside in the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, Asia and Japan. The worldwide membership results in a fascinating mix of animal images, both familiar and exotic, rendered in traditional oil, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, crystal, bronze, wood, marble.

An exhibit of 64 works by members, including 16 from Colorado, is displayed through Feb. 20 at The Wildlife Experience, at 10035 S. Peoria St., Parker.

Diane Mason of Berthoud, Colo., is society president of the group, which is dedicated to portraying and preserving our living heritage. Her own contribution to the exhibit is a small, quizzical, life-sized bronze screech owl, perched on a stack of books, with a quill pen and ink well handy. Called “The Wisdom Keeper,” it lends itself to creation of magical stories. She explained in the catalog that it’s inspired by a friend who kept such a charming creature as a pet for 10 years.

The catalogue has a short statement by the artists about each work, which offers an additional level of understanding. Since the 2011 collection is divided in half, with the other half traveling a different museum route, it also allows one to see all the images selected for the year.

The work is accomplished and generally sophisticated, yet this show will appeal to children, as well as parents. There is a collection of magnifying glasses for closer inspection — “Can you see that little insect?” Many of the works also have a nice bit of text in large print, A Closer Look, which tell more about the work and what to look for. The works are displayed in a gallery just a few steps left of the main desk, with the entrance featuring the large, glowing “Cypress Skies,” painted in Florida, at sunset by Canadian artist Billy-Jack Milligan. It depicts a flock of cattle egrets, silhouetted against the golden sky.

Kay Witherspoon of Englewood has a special talent for capturing lighting at just the right moment. Her alert moose cow and two almost cuddly calves are captured at just such a moment in “Moose Creek Crossing,” which won her an Award of Excellence. She writes that she found them during a fall workshop in Teton National Park.

“Shakin’ It Up” by Cathy Sheeter of Aurora will draw a laugh of recognition from anyone who has been near a large, wet dog. She describes the standard throwing -a - stick game, where dog retrieves stick in water and gets within two feet of you before he shakes the water off his coat. (Repeat at least another hundred times, she says).

Every visitor will have some particular favorites. Don’t miss Robert Bateman’s “Wildebeest and Egrets,” with a note expressing this great conservationist’s concern about a major road planned for the Serengeti, where this is set. It will cut through a migration route used by hundreds of animals every year. He has traveled the world highlighting wildlife.

Gerald Balciar of Parker wrote that his objective was to depict a flock of ducks taking flight. He wanted them to be flying up out of the cattails without looking attached to them. And he wanted the sculpture’s composition to work well from 360 degrees. Note the delicate pattern of the patina on the wings.

A personal favorite is “We’re Just Part of the Branch You Know,” a pair of comical tawny frog mouth birds trying to blend into the landscape, by Australian painter Lyn Ellison. They look like they are right out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Most of these works are for sale and a price list is available at the entrance.

Call for information, 720-488-3300, or visit thewildlifeexperience.org