A History-making Tour of Miniature Paintings by Wes Siegrist
Artists dream of their work being seen outside of family and aspire to participate in public shows. Juried exhibitions and galleries are considered a step up that ladder to success. Inclusion into anything inside museums carries an added aura of success that might culminate into the dream of one day walking into a museum and seeing one’s own work filling an exhibition hall. Few artists achieve this while they’re living and even less do it while they are young in both years and career. It happened to us! We knew we had made history. To our knowledge, only a few living miniature painters had ever been featured in a solo museum exhibition and none to the scale achieved for us by our tour director. That momentous start, back in 2010, exploded into the most successful touring exhibition of miniature paintings by living artists in history and it’s still going and growing!
In the summer of 2008, we were asked by Dr. David J. Wagner to consider allowing him to exhibit our miniature paintings in museums. Knowing Dave’s reputation and success with other artists we enthusiastically said yes! We knew from the start, that it would likely be years before something was scheduled, if at all, so we set ourselves in for the long haul. We were surprised when Dave called mere weeks later. One of the nation’s top museums with collections of historic miniature paintings had requested our show! We were scheduled to premiere at the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, LA in July of 2010. It had been 25 years since the Norton staged their last exhibition pertaining to miniature painting, Portrait Miniatures in Early American History, 1750-1840. They felt it was time to do another one featuring modern American miniaturists who had been featured in a variety of group exhibitions at the Norton over the years . . . the Siegrists!
While we were still floating on cloud nine, Dave called with more news. The West Baton Rouge Museum was also interested in our work. Would we be able to stage a second concurrent exhibition of 50 more paintings? Borrowing back nearly 50 paintings from collectors to augment our available work to comprise the varied content of the exhibitions was a herculean task. It paled only slightly in comparison to the mountain of logistics associated with putting 100 paintings on exhibit! Floating in the stratosphere now with two solo museum exhibitions on the horizon, Dave pushed us into space with the news that the works in Baton Rouge, LA would be going on tour!
To date, EXQUISITE MINIATURES BY WES & RACHELLE SIEGRIST includes over 200 paintings*, will be displayed 5,588 days in 21 exhibitions at 19 venues and will travel thousands of miles across the country and back to 15 States! … And more venues are pending!
It’s hard to believe we left a week ago tomorrow, with our destination being the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, to see the AMERICAN WILDLIFE ART Exhibition. After spending the night in Chambersburg, PA, we drove the remaining couple of hours and arrived at the beautiful museum later that morning, where we were met by Chris Potash, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations. He gave us a most enjoyable and very informative tour of the museum, and then got several nice photos of us alongside our four paintings that are part of the splendid exhibition, curated by Dr. David Wagner. The title of the exhibition is elegantly written on the wall at the bottom of the stairway, with large bird footprints following alongside the steps leading to the galleries housing the exhibition upstairs. Once in the beautiful gallery, you are met with works from early wildlife artists: White, Catesby, Audubon and Wilson, which start the exhibition from the late 1500s into the early 1800s.
Standing by the fun and impressive entrance to the exhibition
The later part of the historic era is represented with the likes of artists Russell, Fuertes, Jacques, Tait and Runguis. As you enter the modern day section of the exhibition, where our four paintings are displayed alongside Robert Bateman’s painting, you walk between a Tait and a Rungius. I would say our paintings are certainly in esteemed company! Needless to say, we were completely delighted and impressed with this amazing exhibition! After enjoying a delicious lunch in the café, located inside the museum, we met both museum Chief Curator Diane Fischer, and Registrar Beverly Hoover. Then we just enjoyed seeing the remaining painting exhibitions in the museum as well as the elegant library designed in 1912, by Frank Lloyd Wright, from the Francis W. Little House in Wayzata, MN, which had been moved and reassembled inside of the museum! We also greatly enjoyed our private viewing of the Kress Collection, containing many of our historic favorite painters.
Two views inside the gorgeous library designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
We are absolutely thrilled that they choose to use Wes’ painting “Basking Broad-headed Skink” to represent the work of the modern day wildlife artists included in the exhibition. It is featured in a 30-second TV commercial, spotlighting the American Wildlife Art Exhibition and will be seen 1,450 times throughout November and December! The commercial will air on the following networks in northeastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey . . .
-Animal Planet -Bravo -Country Music Television -Family Channel -Hallmark -History Channel -National Geographic Channel -NBC Sports Network (Bill Dance Outdoors, American Outdoors) -Outdoors Channel -Travel Channel
So . . . as you can imagine we are delighted about it, and you can watch the 30 second commercial by clicking on the video below.
Having enjoyed four amazing hours at the museum, we left the peace behind and began our drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which remained with us during most of our drive to Midland, DE, where we spent the night. Getting up very early the next morning, we drove the remaining distance to Easton, MD, in time to hang our paintings at the 43rd Waterfowl Festival, before lunch. The show began that evening, and as always we were most happy to see many friendly faces of our dear collectors and friends. After a full day at the show Friday, we enjoyed dinner that evening with dear artist friends, Mark Kelso and his sweet mom Linda, and David Lanier and his wife Cathy. We enjoyed much laughter and sharing of great stories for a couple of hours while we ate and relaxed. Saturday brought another full day at the show, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner during the artist party, later that evening at nearby Easton Club. Sunday came and went, and before we knew it we were already packing up to begin the long journey home. A heartfelt “Thank you!” to all of you, our wonderful existing and new collectors, who helped make the Waterfowl Festival a good show for us this year!!!
We returned home earlier this evening, having driven a couple of hours towards home last night. Now it’s time once again to play catch up and get ready for the upcoming Plantation Wildlife Art Festival in Thomasville, GA, which will take place this coming weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing many of our collector friends there, after not being able to make it last year!
Fresh off and on the easel ~ I finished two miniature paintings this past week of “Oreo” or Belted Galloway Cows. I absolutely love Oreo cows, as they are my favorite breed, so needless to say, I was delighted to have them both go to a wonderful home this past weekend during the Waterfowl Festival.
Knowing it was our last day there in San Carlos, we woke early once again to make the most of every minute left there! We walked around the desert area once again for a bit, and then headed down to the beach to see if the dolphins were by any chance swimming in the surf close by. After eating breakfast, we got on the bus along with the others that were to spend the day on Glenn and Martha’s beautiful boat. After a short, lovely ride, we arrived at the marina. It was another beautiful day, one for the picture books, as we boarded the boat and settled in for the 11 mile ride out to the island, where we were to spend much of the day. The marina is a beautiful setting unto itself, surrounded by the mountains with beautiful homes sitting atop some of them. There were a variety of Seagulls and Pelicans everywhere as we headed out into the beautiful Sea of Cortez. The color of the water was simply amazing with its shades ranging from deep blue to light emerald green and turquoise! The wind was very cool that morning, so Martha graciously shared her special sitting place on the boat, out of the cold wind and blistering sun with me, for which I was very grateful! It was so relaxing, just riding along, listening to the hum of the engines and watching the birds flying about the mountain ranges that became smaller and smaller as we went along. I have always found something very mesmerizing about watching the wake made from a boat as it splashes, changes form and eventually fades away behind you. Fortunately, I had a front row seat for this ever-changing scene from my shared spot with Martha.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at the location of the island, and beautiful and grand it was! Three miles long in total, and completely inhabited by numerous bird species and Sea Lions. Before going closer to the island itself, they decided to make a swap with three fishermen in a beautiful, brightly colored little boat, for some bait fish. The bartering implements of choice were several Pesos, and three diet Canada Dry Ginger Ales, which were put into a five gallon bucket and floated across the water to the men in the boat, with a small rope attached to bring it back with the bait fish in it. I found this a very interesting and good trade, especially since I too greatly enjoy drinking diet Ginger Ales!
Having this task accomplished, we slowly pulled away from them and went closer to the island. It was teeming with life and the air was filled with the cries of Seagulls, Pelicans, Blue-footed and Brown Boobies along with many other birds, as well as the calls of the numerous resident Sea Lions. The island mountain itself was quite lovely in form, with scattered Cactus growing about and a good portion of it being draped in white, or what I’ve heard also called Mexican snow. It’s actually bird droppings, and thousands of gallons of it, piled thick, creating wonderful and interesting patterns all around paired against the beautiful warm pink, salmon and light orange colors of the rocks, and the amazing emerald green of the sea water below! Bird nests were built everywhere and one could easily tell that this was a serious bird housing development!
It was the first time that Wes and I had ever seen the beautiful Blue-footed Boobies, as well as the Browns. Their blue feet were stunning in color and really showed up nicely at a distance. By this time we had made several mental notes already of future miniature paintings to be done! Then we started to watch the Sea Lions, and what a show they put on! A few people with much, much thicker blood than me, along with wet suits enjoyed snorkeling with the Sea Lions. It was then that I greatly regretted once again, having such thin, Florida blood! But all was not lost! Glenn and Martha were both so amazing with their preparedness to make sure everyone had a great time, and before long they had the smaller Zodiac boat lifted off of the big boat with a crane on the front, and placed in the water. We all then took turns loading in the Zodiac and enjoying a ride with Glenn, taking us right up to the edge of the island. We carefully and slowly got close enough to be right with the Sea lions and alas it was like snorkeling with them, only we stayed warm!! We got several great reference photos of them, while we enjoyed watching their interesting tactics and graceful maneuvers as they dove into the water and swam about, splashing and jumping. It almost appeared as if they were playing water games of sorts. Whatever it was, they were having a ball, and so were we watching them!
We also saw at very close proximity Sea Urchins attached to the rough surfaces of some of the colorful rocks. The Sally Lightfoot Crab was a real treat, and one of the most beautiful crabs that I have ever seen in my life! We watched in amazement as this good sized crab moved across the surface of the rocks. It was then time to head back to the big boat, as a few of those on board were going to try troll fishing for a bit, while we slowly circled the base of the island. It wasn’t too long after the fishing guide had put a very pretty hot pink lure on the heavy line, when someone hollered “We got a fish!”, and all headed toward the back of the boat. Sometime later a large, beautiful Yellow Tail was pulled aboard.
Spirits were high as we started the journey back to the marina. I enjoyed riding in the warm, cozy spot once again as we went along, gently swaying back and forth. I watched the beautiful island in the distance grow smaller and smaller until it completely disappeared into the horizon. Just then someone shouted “Dolphins!” and the boat came quickly to a halt as we enjoyed watching them gracefully jump about, seamlessly leaving the water with what appeared to be no effort at all! Wow, what a day we’d had! We returned to the marina where the bus and Jaun, were waiting for us. That evening Wes and I enjoyed eating our little bit of leftovers at the condo, along with Susan, there at the large dining room table. Afterward, I had to walk out and see my beloved ocean and beach one last time, and was rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen! I just stood there silently as the numerous bats flew above, with such gratitude, taking it all in, trying to remember the sights, smells and sounds that would hopefully stay with me for all time!
We woke early the next morning and packed in time to load the bus for the return trip back to reality. The drive back was nice and relaxed. We passed several small homesteads, cemeteries and what seemed to be acres and acres of green houses, as well as Shanty Town near Nogales. Before we knew it, we were at the border crossing once again. However, this time it didn’t go as quickly and we were there for two hours, before getting through. While waiting we saw a semi truck and trailer hit a cement wall and explode into flames stretching high into the air, before it quickly burned and melted completely to the ground. It was at this point that the big black truck filled with Federales dressed in their intimidating black uniforms, pulled right up alongside the bus, and with machine guns in hand, jumped off and ran to the site of the incident. It looked like something straight from a movie indeed!
There is one particular sight I remember most, however. It took place on the narrow road that the bus drove down to get through the border crossing. From the edge of the passenger side of the bus to the chain link fence running alongside, was the distance of about3 feet. Lining the fence in these 3 feet, I saw many young Mexican families, and at times a small child by itself trying to sell things. Jewelry, pictures, baskets, purses and popsicles, among other things, were the items available for sale. As we sat there for quite some time at one location, I watched a baby boy, about one and a half years old, sitting there on the bare pavement, barely sheltered with the little bit of shade offered by the old tarp that the mother had pinned to the fence. He sat no further than a foot and a half from the tires of the big bus, contentedly playing with three small plastic toy animals. And as I watched him, my heart went out to him and to his family, as well as the many others, as this is how they probably spend most of their days. This heart-tugging, emotional incident, along with seeing the numerous tiny houses and shacks, looking at Shanty Town from the bus window and hearing the stories of how many live there, not to mention learning that the minimum wage there is a mere six dollars a day, filled me with an overwhelming feeling of just how very blessed, perhaps at times too blessed, we are here in America, as well as many other countries. Way too many of us are so very spoiled, and too many times very wasteful, taking way too much for granted!! I think we could all learn something from what I learned that day . . . that is to live a much simpler life, take nothing for granted and remember to be very thankful for even the littlest things in life!! 🙂
This amazing expedition trip to San Carlos was organized by David J. Wagner, L.L.C. to enable participating artists to produce a body of artwork for display in an upcoming museum exhibition entitled, “The Sea of Cortez”. I simply cannot express how totally blessed Wes and I both feel having been able to be a part of this most wonderful and enlightening experience!!
Fresh off the easel: While I continue to work on one of my miniature paintings of three Bison along a river in Yellowstone, Wes has finished two miniatures. One is of a beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly on a Blazing Star. The other is of several wonderful Bison that we photographed while in Yellowstone on one our trips there.
I’m also delighted to share with you that Wes recently won the “Best of Show” at the Ridge Art Association Miniature Art Exhibition in Winter Haven, FL as well as the “Best of Show” at the Alabama Miniature Art Exhibition in Mobile, AL. We’re also excited to announce the start of our new three-year museum tour featuring fifty of our miniature paintings which opened this weekend at the Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, MO.