VISUAL ARTS

On the Wild Side

Artists from 31 states, Mexico and Canada compete for $5,000 in prizes in art association’s exhibit

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They are by no means considered unique subject matters when it comes to visual art. Nonetheless, perusing a gallery full of nature and wildlife images is aesthetically pleasing. From sculptures of egrets to oil paintings of seascapes, nature makes for a nice addition to any blank wall. The St. Augustine Art Association's walls feature selected pieces in the fourth annual "Nature & Wildlife" art exhibit at the Marine Street gallery in downtown St. Augustine. The juried exhibit, showcasing 120 works of art in an array of styles and media, runs through Aug. 31.

The show was originally named the Judith Ryan Williams Nature & Wildlife exhibit after an association member's late wife who had a passion for the outdoors.

"Being able to house an exhibit of this caliber has been so exciting over the years," says Diane Bradley, president of the association for the past five years – a volunteer position Bradley calls a "labor of love."

"This show really helps to raise the level of the art association and of St. Augustine as a whole."

Formed in 1924, the St. Augustine Art Association will celebrate its 90th anniversary next year, which also marks the association's 60th anniversary of being in its Marine Street location.

St. Augustine's art history dates back to the Flagler era when Henry Flagler enticed New York and New England artists to town to enhance the cultural experience for wealthy visitors. Over the years, art in the nation's Oldest City has had its fair share of ebb and flow. But with the help of the association and numerous area art schools, the art scene is on a steady incline.

This year's "Nature & Wildlife" exhibit attracted more than 500 entries by artists from 31 states as well as Mexico and Canada. Approximately 120 pieces were chosen for the show.

Siberian artist Natalia Andreeva, who is now based in Florida, is set to the judge the pieces competing for a prize purse of $5,000, which includes the $2,000 Bradley/Mayer award sponsored by Diane Bradley and her husband Bill Mayer as well as other cash prizes, artistic merit awards and honorable mentions.

Past winners of the prestigious best in show award include Paul Baliker, a sculptor from Palm Coast, painter Diane Travis and fiber artist Mary Rhopa La Cierra.

"This has become a unique show in that we have artwork shipped from all over the country," Bradley said. "St. Augustine is an art and culture destination, and we are a community art center – this is my vision of what the art association should be."

The fourth-annual "Nature & Wildlife" show includes various subject matter including seascapes, landscapes, birds, turtles, fish and large wildlife like elephants and orangutans. There's no shortage of mediums either. Patrons can see jewelry, sculptures, fiber art, etchings, gouache, watercolor, paintings and photography.

Each piece is for sale – a requirement of entering the exhibit – with price tags ranging from $200 and up. "We've sold quite a few each year," Bradley says.

Local artists featured in this year's show include painter Abigail Schmidt, watercolorist Don Taylor, painter and printmaker Hope Barton, sculptor Pokey Park and painter Richard Hausen as well as painters Patricia Pollock and Sydney McKenna.

As part of the exhibit programming, Jacqui Sulek of Audubon Florida will present a free lecture on "Landscaping for Wildlife" during First Friday Art Walk, 7 p.m. Aug. 2. Proceeds from the exhibit sales support the art association youth education programs and conservation efforts by Audubon Florida.

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