ST. PETERSBURG — A wild, colorful experience awaits at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.
“Artists for Conservation: International Exhibit of Nature in Art” showcases 60 works in painting, sculpture and other media that explore the conservation of wildlife and nature. The group Artists for Conservation is a network of 500 international artists dedicated to using artwork to effect awareness.
Animals are portrayed in the majority of the exhibition, with a smattering of nature. With a diverse range of artistic styles, it’s visually delightful. But a sense of melancholy comes with the realization that the wildlife depicted is endangered.
Carrie Cook’s powerful oil painting, Jam, depicts an orangutan who lives at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula. In a quote accompanying the painting, Cook writes, “This is a portrait of an individual who has the right to life and freedom from harm.”
With Rare Rhino, artist Pat Jackman uses colored pencil to render the endangered perissodactyl in tones of pink and purple to encourage viewers to look closer and learn more about the animal.
Luke Raffin’s majestic painting of a one-tusked elephant is titled Resilience, symbolic of nature’s ability to adapt and persevere.
A special section of the exhibit is a tribute to John Seerey-Lester, a key member of Artists for Conservation who painted for more than four decades and died last year. He and his artist wife, Suzie, painted together in their studio in Osprey and traveled worldwide for research. They raised millions of dollars to save African and American wildlife habitats.
Seerey-Lester’s Black Jaguar dominates on a wall. The cat splashes through white, foamy water, yellow eyes fixated on prey.
A collection of Seerey-Lester’s sketchbooks is also on display. He brought them along on his and Suzie’s travels and created paintings based on the sketches and notes.
Marine life is also represented in the exhibition, including sea turtles, a coral reef and manatees. The recent findings that Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate make their inclusion here especially poignant.
There are many birds represented, as well as lizards, buffalo and bears.
By highlighting the planet’s majestic creatures and nature, the exhibition is a reminder of what a less vibrant place it would be without them.
If you go
“Artists for Conservation: International Exhibit of Nature in Art” is on view through May 23. $20, $15 students, teachers, seniors and active military, $10 youth ages 7-18, free for children 6 and younger. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except on Tuesdays, when the museum is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. 150 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-892-4200. thejamesmuseum.org.