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Capturing the Beauty of Birds

Connecticut Audubon Society Holds its First Exhibit and Sale of Art That Depicts 'Birds in Their Habitat'

Living in Fairfield County allows for some spectacular backyard birding. From American Goldfinches to Great Horned Owls, our backyards are teeming with winged neighbors.

Accurately representing any of these magnificent beauties in an artistic form can be a challenging task, but 22 juried artists have succeeded and will be displaying their works in October at The Connecticut Audubon Society's first "Birds in their Habitat" exhibit and sale at the Center at Fairfield, 2325 Burr St.

"Each submitted item must have a bird or bird's nest in it," said Nelson North, director of operations at the Connecticut Audubon Society in Fairfield. A variety of media will be on display at the event including sculpture, painting, photography and pyrography, an artistic media in which an image is burnt onto wood.

"We sent out invitations to a broad range of folks who were known to our committee as doing wildlife art," North said.

From the 75 invitations that were sent out, the jury selected 22 artists of exceptional talent for the exhibition. "They were invited to participate based on technique," said Beth Rhame, a Connecticut Audubon board member who spearheaded the new event.

Back in 2007, North created a wildlife carvers art show. The event did well, but wasn't held again, and little over a year ago, Rhame decided to resurrect the art show and expand it to all types of media, not just carving.

"Nelson wanted to have the event in 2009, but we convinced him to wait until 2010," said Rhame. "I've been working on this a solid year now."

Rhame, a Southport resident, is an artist herself. "I was drawn to the Fairfield Audubon because I paint and band birds," she said.

As a bird-bander, Rhame gets up close to raptors and other birds, observes the exquisite detail of their feathers and then transposes what she sees onto canvas.  That specific detail and precision was the deciding factor in the judging of selected artists.

Local artist and Connecticut Audubon Society's pick for 2010 Artist of the Year, James Procek, will not only have his works on display for the weekend-long exhibition, but will be in attendance as well.

Procek has been going to the Fairfield Audubon since he was a child. Much of his time there as a youngster was spent analyzing skins and taking advantage of the center's open space so that he could hone his artistic skills. "It's nice to be involved still and especially to be honored," said Procek, a painter of natural history and also a writer and naturalist. The artist has travelled the globe throughout his career and has written a variety of books on the natural world.

"My interest in my painting life is in natural history and fish and birds, specifically interpreting nature in a way that is relevant to humans today," Procek said. "Now that we are in the process of losing diversity faster than we are documenting it, I feel the approach should change."

The upcoming September issue of National Geographic will feature an article by Procek on eels, and a painting from his kid's book, "Bird, Butterfly, Eel," will be at the exhibition.

Proceeds from the exhibition will support the Connecticut Audubon in Fairfield, not the national Audubon Society, and will specifically go to education.

The Connecticut Audubon of Fairfield employs teachers who go out to Fairfield County grade schools, even if the school cannot afford it. "We feel very strongly that it is important to get all kids in touch with the natural world, wherever they are," North said. "...In some cases it's very expensive to rent buses and come to our sanctuaries, so we go to them!"

Artwork will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 2 and 3 at the Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield, 2325 Burr St. Admission is $5 (free for children 10 years old and younger) and is good for both days. Four live "Birds of Prey" demonstrations will be held, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 2 and 3. Super Duper Weenie will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 2 and 3 with food and beverages for sale.

A Gala Preview Party to meet the artists will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 1, with an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets are $75. Call 203-259-6305, ext. 109.

For information on the upcoming exhibition, visit www.ctaudubon.org/visit/fairfield.htm.

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