CULTURE KLASH: Warhol’s Wildlife

By on July 19, 2017

Wildlife museum hosts a disco party to celebrate the iconic artist and the endangered species he immortalized.

Maybe they’ll listen if Warhol depcits us.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When people think Andy Warhol, they think Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and cans of Campbell’s soup, all rendered in bright colors and that distinctive Warhol style. The artist was known for gleaning inspiration from current trends and pop culture. But in the early 1980s, Warhol deviated from his normal subject matter and created 10 prints of endangered species.

It isn’t as strange a divergence as it might seem, Adam Harris, the Petersen Curator of Art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, said. The Endangered Species Act was only about a decade old and a movement was underway to bring attention to disappearing wildlife. It was part of the conversation at the time.

It still doesn’t stop people from marveling when they see the prints, hanging at the National Museum of Wildlife Art through November 5.

“It’s just so instantly recognizable as Warhol,” Harris said. “It’s a real crowd pleaser.”

Ronald and Frayda Feldman commissioned the Endangered Species portfolio in 1983 to bring attention to ecological issues. Warhol’s interest in nature started when he was a child. He drew animals in science class and kept a flower garden in his family’s yard, according to information on the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s website. In college, he visited the zoo to draw and in his career he created hundreds of paintings, prints and drawings of flowers.

The museum displayed Warhol’s endangered species prints, borrowed from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. They received such a positive response, the museum searched for, and acquired its own set of the prints. A feat because finding all 10 prints together is rare, Harris said.

“Warhol is known for his ability to take something we are all familiar with, items in popular culture, and then translate them into a fine art medium,” Harris said. “It gets you to look at something you’ve already seen 100 times, but in a new light, because he’s given it the Warhol treatment. It brings a different kind of attention to things you might otherwise think are a mundane object or simply celebrity fodder.”

The artist gave 10 species, including a black rhino, zebra and bighorn ram, that “Warhol treatment” for the screen print series and the museum is doing the same for its Mix’d Media event celebrating the show Thursday.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art is transforming to a disco-scene that conjures a likeness of Studio 54, said Amy Goicoechea, director of program and events at the museum.

The free party is 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the museum. People can visit the Warhol exhibit and explore the other shows in the museum and create their own works of art. Artist Walt Gerald will teach people about screen printing and help folks to try their hands at it. The museum will have some items available for printing, but people can also bring their own.

Screen printing, which Warhol used for his endangered species series, is a specific printing process that allows ink through a screen onto material below, Goicoechea explained. The printing at the museum will be a simpler process than what Warhol used, but it will still allow people to better understand how he made art, she said.

The Mix’d Media events are meant to engage people with exhibits and deepen their interaction with the works.

DJ Cut la Whut will provide music. Food and beverage are available for purchase.

A biopic movie, Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol, will play in the theater next to his prints. People are welcome to pop in to watch parts of the 90-minute movie, Goicoechea said.

The party is meant to celebrate the exhibit.

“Nobody else can have this party, because we have those Warhol prints,” Goicoechea said.

It’s also meant to offer a time for people who work during normal museum hours to see the show and the rest of the museum’s collection. It’s the only time each month the museum is open late during the week.

All galleries are open during the event and people are encouraged to check out the other exhibits, which include images from National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore who created portraits of animals held in captivity such as zoos or aquariums. “Iridescence: John Gould’s Hummingbirds” is also on display. Gould documented and catalogued hummingbirds in the 1800s. The exhibition includes a soundscape of hummingbirds created for the show.

The shows, along with the Warhol exhibit, are hanging as the museum celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer. PJH

Mix’d Media, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 20 at National Museum of Wildlife Art, Free

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