Lynn Hummel column: Better than deer and loons
The wildlife and animal artists are missing the parade. They're painting and photographing all these wonderful and innocent deer, loons, eagles, ducks, geese, buffalo, dogs, cats and horses. And people buy them and hang them on the wall. It could be so much better.
The most successful of these artists was probably the brilliant and talented Terry Redlin. I am thinking of a painting of a log cabin at sunset with smoke coming out of the chimney, geese flying and about to land in a pond, and a deer standing and enjoying the entire scene.
Typical Redlin paintings repeated the sunset, log cabin, smoke and deer, though Redlin might often add a dog, a bridge, a church steeple or a pickup. The point was to pluck at your heartstrings enough to coax you into buying a signed painting, a print or even a coffee mug with a deer on it. It worked. He sold plenty. Enough to amass a fortune and build a beautiful museum in Watertown, South Dakota. In the 1990s he was frequently named "America's Most Popular Artist."
And, so it goes. You will now find wildlife or animal prints of the Minnesota State Bird, the magnificent loon, America's official bird, the majestic bald eagle, deer, Canadian geese landing or your favorite dog, cat or horse. They all give your heart a little tug and they are all posed artificial and unnatural. Ho hum. There's probably a garage sale in your block right now where you can pick up one of those prints, maybe even a Redlin for $5.
Am I an art critic? Of course not, I know nothing about art. But I know something about tugs at the heart. Let me give you three examples.
Last week I was driving along a street between a small rain water catch basin and a lake. The traffic was fairly busy with cars ahead and cars behind me. Then suddenly, in the corner of my eye, I saw a mother mallard duck leading, single file, about ten little fluffball baby ducks, all about the size of an orange. They all waddled across the street behind me and avoided the next car. Mother duck decided to cross the street, so she just said, "follow me" and the little duckies followed. No caution. No fear. Now that tugs at my heart. And that's the parade the hotshot artists and photographers are missing. It wasn't posed, it wasn't artificial, and it wasn't unnatural.
A few years ago, I was driving along on a road leading into town, speed limit 40 mph, and I saw a mother skunk leading about six baby stinkers across the road, single file. The little guys were about the size of my fist. I slowed down and let them cross ahead of me. That scene warmed my heart and broke it too, because coming from the opposite direction was another car and I could see that the driver didn't see the parade. As the little skunks got across my lane and began to cross the other one, the oncoming car plowed right over a number of the little jaywalkers. I didn't stop to count.
My third example doesn't involve wild animals, tame animals or pets, but I believe it helps prove the point. Have you ever seen a daycare provider leading a parade of a half dozen little three or four-year-olds to a park or pool somewhere to play? They're holding hands and they're walking single file, cute as a little duck or skunk parade. If you had a photo or painting of just one of those kids, you'd have a cute kid, but no big tug at the heart, if it wasn't your own kid. Just like some old photo under a pile in the drawer. But with six-twelve kids marching single file, holding hands, the parade is added an emotional dimension that one or two kids cannot achieve.
And the moral of the story is, that with ducks, skunks, kids and even roses, they're funner by the dozen.