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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

Birds in Art 2018 Taking Flight at the Woodson Art Museum

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

Wausau, Wisconsin: New avian-themed artworks by more than 100 worldwide artists comprise the 43rd annual, internationally renowned2018 “Birds in Art” exhibition, on view September 8 through November 25 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

Rose Tanner, Be Curious, 2017, oil

The 2018 exhibition presents artworks by 114 artists in total: 2018 MasterArtist Cindy House, 21 who were named Master Artistsduring previous“Birds in Art” exhibitions, and 92 artists whose work was selected by three jurors who reviewed 904 entries submitted by 575 artists.

Innovative artistic approaches and intriguing mediums – from acrylic and oxidized sterling silver leaf to cut turkey feathers and oil and cold wax on linen – capture the character, spirit, and habitats of birds. A luminous, elegant oil painting by Michael Dumas highlights a house sparrow pair atop layers of fabric, while a whimsical wire artwork by Thomas Hill depicts a wild-eyed, gangly heron running. All-new artwork features varied interpretations of avian wonders – from vibrant to serene – via original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last three years.

The 2018 edition of the Woodson Art Museum’s flagship exhibition continues to delight and engage audiences of wide-ranging interests and also celebrates the artistry and achievements of New England pastel artist Cindy House as the 2018 Master Artist. House, the Woodson ArtMuseum’s 37th Master Artist, will receive the Master Wildlife Artist Medal during the “Birds in Art” opening festivities.

In announcing the 2018 Master, director Kathy Kelsey Foley said, “Cindy House has developed a style all her own that reflects her love of the natural world as well as her consummate artistry. Her elegant landscapes are captivating; her compositions draw the viewer in to explore nature’s beauty and its avian inhabitants. Cindy’s selection as the 2018 MasterArtist adds depth and distinction to the roster of artists previously honored. We welcome her with great enthusiasm.”

Cindy House, Autumn Gathering, 2013, pastel

Selected for inclusion in “Birds in Art” twenty-six times since 1981, her first year in the exhibition, House attended exhibition-opening festivities twenty-three of those years. “My life has always been centered around birds and bird art,” House said. “To be named Master Artist by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is a tremendous honor. It validates my life’s work. To have my artcelebrated, together with those of theMuseum’s Past Masters whose works I have long held in such high esteem, is a dream come true.”

House’s exquisite pastel landscapes appear – by design – to be oil paintings and feature sweeping vistas of avian habitats. Meticulously and magically capturing ecosystems, birds in their surroundings, and fleeting moments in time via pastel pigment on paper, Cindy’s paintings convey the essence of birdwatching. Her style and choice of medium evolved as she discovered her life’s passion in pastels. House developed and refined a method throughout more than twenty-five years as her work gained increasingly wider recognition and appreciation. Fifteen Cindy Houseartworks comprise her 2018 “Birds in Art” Master Artist grouping.

Born in 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island, House grew up in that state’s coastal town of Bristol and often accompanied her mother – a natural history teacher and photographer – into the woods, fields, and along the shorelines to observe nature. While working at a local bird sanctuary during high school, she developed an interest in art and later received her bachelor of science degree in wildlife biology from the University of Maine in 1975.

House began as a bird-book illustrator working in watercolor, a career she credits “Birds in Art” with helping to launch. Editors, seeking an artist to work on illustrations for a new “National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” attended “Birds in Art” opening festivities in 1981, House’s first year in the exhibition. “Impressed by my work, they called me a week later,” House said. “From then on, to be accepted into ‘Birds in Art’ was an annual goal for me.” Visiting Wausau for the exhibition’s openings “gave me the opportunity to view varying approaches to depicting birds that I would never have seen otherwise,” she said.

Cindy House, Wood Duck Spring, 2016, pastel

By the late 1980s, House was seeking a new direction and was inspired by an exhibition of American Impressionist William Merritt Chase’s work during a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. “His landscapes so moved me that I had one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments in life and realized what I would like to do with my art,” she said. “First, I wanted to develop my pastels to look like oils. Second, where Chase had painted people within his landscapes, I would paint birds, albeit small ones.”

After she and her husband moved to Vermont, idyllic scenery further fueled her passion for painting landscapes. There, she developed her technique, which she now continues in New Hampshire. Working on sanded pastel paper, House uses pastels to create an under-painting washed with turpentine and then layers and blends pastels, adding more detail with each layer. Birds are drawn last, using small pieces of pastel and pastel pencils.

Besides helping to launch her career, “Birds in Art” also “contributed to my search for a new medium; one where I could express myself in a manner that was comfortable yet demanding,” House said. “I eventually found my life’s passion in pastels and it was at ‘Birds in Art’ where they first found an audience.”

House also found a community of artists via the “Birds in Art” exhibition. “A world of talented artists, many of whom have become dear friends, helped me continue to challenge myself and move forward with my work,” House said. “None of these amazing things would have happened without the support and devotion of the Woodson family and the remarkable staff of the Museum who have supported and encouraged me throughout the years.”

House’s artwork has been featured in solo exhibitions in Boston, Connecticut, and Ohio, in many group exhibitions throughout the United States and in England, and is in the collections of the Woodson ArtMuseum, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Smithfield; the Museumof American Bird Art, Canton, Massachusetts; and the New BritainMuseum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut. She is a Master Pastelist in the Pastel Society of America, a member of the Master Circle in the International Association of Pastel Societies, and a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists.

This year’s “Birds in Art” exhibition includes 31 international artists, 8 Wisconsin artists, and 12 first-time “Birds in Art” artists. The 8 Wisconsinartists are Gary Eigenberger, Green Bay; Terrill A. Knaack, Beaver Dam; S.V. Medaris, Mount Horeb; John Miller, Madison; Katie Musolff, Stoddard; Don Rambadt, Milwaukee; Thomas R. Schultz, Green Lake; and Jan McAllaster Stommes, Owen.

The three jurors for the 2018 “Birds in Art” exhibition were Sean Charette, director, Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor, Maine; Kelly Kane, editor-in-chief, PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly; Robert McCracken Peck, curator of art and artifacts and senior fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Opening-Day Festivities, Saturday, September 8, 9 a.m. – Noon

[Note: the Museum remains open until 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 8, and is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, September 9.] More than 70 “Birds in Art” artists flock to the Museum from throughout the world for the exhibition’s debut. Seize morning opportunities to interact in the galleries and sculpture garden with artists – from first-year participants to MasterArtists. Make Birds inArt your first stop of Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend.

-The Museum opens at 9 a.m.; meet and mingle with the artists, 9 a.m.-Noon, and get catalogues and posters signed.

-“Birds in Art” Master Artist Cindy House provides insights into her inspiration and process during her presentation, “Nature in Pastel,” 9:30-10:30 a.m., in the sculpture garden.

-Artists in Action demonstrate various mediums and explain techniques, 10:45 a.m.-Noon, in the sculpture garden.

Artist Residency Programs throughout Fall

Two “Birds in Art” artists will lead public programs during artist residencies this fall. Kris Parins will share watercolor techniques during her residency, October 2-7. Josh Guge will highlight woodcarving during his residency, November 1-4.

California-based artist and science illustrator Jane Kim, who recently completed a mural at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology celebrating the evolution and diversity of birds, will design and paint a mural for the Woodson Art Museum focusing on how birds get their color. Her residency will take place November 9-18 and coincides with the publication of “The Wall of Birds” (Harper Collins), detailing Kim’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology project.

For program details, check the events calendar in late August at

Hands-on Programs for All Ages Make Exhibition Connections

Museum programs for all ages will bring to life themes, artistic styles, and techniques from “Birds in Art” 2018 and the Museum’s collection exhibitions. All ages explore avian-themed activities in Art Park, the Museum’s interactive family gallery; discover a transformed Art Park in the lower level in September.

During Art Park Open Studio on the first Saturday of each month, 1-3 p.m., all ages drop in for hands-on art making inspired by artwork on view in the galleries.

-SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and an accompanying friend or family member on the second Thursday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, offer social interaction in the galleries, followed by a hands-on art activity; call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.

-Art Beyond Sight, on a Saturday (date to be determined), 10:30 a.m.-Noon, is designed for individuals with low vision or blindness. Participants join Museum educators for a multisensory exploration of the galleries followed by hands-on art making. Call the Museum 715-845-7010 to register.

-During Toddler Tuesdays on the third Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, little ones, 18 months-4 years, and accompanying adults drop in to sample art making and interactive play in Art Park.

-Art Babies, Art Time for Tots, Art 4 You, and Art Kids programs offered during the last week of each month; check the online events calendar and call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.

For more information and registration details, see details below and check the online events calendar.

A 134-page full-color, illustrated “Birds in Art”catalogue featuring everyartwork along with artists’ statements and an essay about House will be available for purchase in September. Preorder catalogues now at Three posters also are available for purchase; the posters feature artwork by Michael Dumas, Sparrow’s Rest, 2016, oil; Matthew Hillier, Stormy Sea, 2018, oil; and Brian Jarvi, Feather Essence Iridescence, 2018, oil.

Each year, 60 “Birds in Art” artworks are selected for a subsequent tour to locations throughout the country. The 2018 tour venues are: Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, January 25 – March 31, 2019;Michelson Museum of Art, Marshall, Texas, April 27 – July 7, 2019; Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, September 20 – November 17, 2019.

For more information, visit, e-mail the Museum at, call 715-845-7010, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks for reading and sharing this archived* story!

*This archived feature was originally posted to by publisher Karen Lee; who owns/owned or obtained the applicable rights and/or licenses for publication. If you own the copyrights to this article and wish that it be taken off of our website, please contact  


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