‘Animal Impressions’: New exhibition highlights animal impact on humans

By Laura Latzko

Animals can help to shape our lives in different ways, including giving us an appreciation for other life forms, the animal kingdom and the natural world.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute’s new exhibition “Animal Impressions” explores through different art forms how animals can make an impression on humankind. The exhibition runs from August 21 to November 7.

The 57 pieces sculptures, paintings, multimedia works and other pieces in the juried exhibit come from members of the Society of Animal Artists.

The international organization, which was started in 1960, was designed for artists whose work is centered around wildlife topics.

The artists chosen for the exhibit hail from the United States, Germany, Sweden, Canada and other parts of the world.

These artists worked with a diversity of different materials, including bronze; cotton paper; Japanese handmade papers; black marble; granite; oil, acrylic and watercolor paint; ironwood; glass; colored pencils; copper; silver; brass and graphite.

Marie McGhee, associate director for the art institute, says the artists interpreted the theme in different ways, with some highlighting animals’ facial expressions or body language and others giving a glimpse into animals’ behavior.

“There is one in particular that is the face of a California Condor, and it is just magnificent, just the expression on that bird’s face and the angle of the head. … There’s another one of zebras in their world. It’s not so much about how we see them, or the expression they are conveying, it’s more about the expression of their daily life,” McGhee says.

The show ties into the art institute’s larger mission of promoting conservation through art education.

“Animals teach us about conservation all the time. That’s why we wanted to know how animals impress upon us an appreciation for the natural world and how does that add to our own humanity,” McGhee says. “I think the connection between animals, humanity and conservation is critical.”

McGhee says the exhibition is relevant in today’s society because conservation has recently come more to the forefront.

The exhibit not only highlights local conservation but offers a global perspective.

“Even though our focus is the Sonoran Desert, it can never be too far from our mind that our environments are all interconnected,” McGhee says.

An opening for the show, with the curator and some of the artists present, will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. September 17.

Guided tours of the exhibition are also available at no cost. They can be set up in advance by contacting the art institute.

Volunteers will often walk around, answering questions about the exhibitions. McGhee says questions on the artwork can often lead to more in-depth dialogues.

“It often sparks conversations about the technique that a person used, and that can flow into the science of conservation,” McGhee says.

Classes and other exhibitions offered at the art institute are also centered around environmental conservation.

From August 7 to October 24, the art institute will present another exhibition called “Borderlands: Where the Desert Meets the Sea” featuring photographs by Mexican photographers Pilar Salido and Carlos Navarro.

The two photographers/naturalists captured the Cortez Sea and the surrounding Sonoran Desert, which meet in Baja, California; Arizona; and Sonora, Mexico.

The photos showcase the inherent beauty of an ecosystem that is home to different mammal, fish, bird and micro-invertebrate species.

Along with a chance to view art institute exhibitions, admission grants visitors access to the museum’s gardens; trails; aviaries; aquarium; reptile, amphibian and invertebrate hall; earth sciences center; mountain woodland and desert grassland animal habitats and other animal exhibits.