Birds in Art 2020

Note: Exhibition extended, September 12 through February 21, 2021

Artwork from 114 artists from throughout the world is included in the 45th annual Birds in Art exhibition. This year, 510 artists submitted 830 artworks for consideration by the three-person jury. The exhibition includes artwork by the Museum’s 2020 Master Artist Timothy David Mayhew, 22 who were named Master Artists during previous Birds in Art exhibitions, and 91 artists whose work was selected by the jury. Birds in Art, which presents original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last three years by worldwide artists, once again celebrates avian marvels through fresh artistic interpretations. See this list of 2020 Birds in Art artists’ names whose work is included in the 2020 exhibition.

The first day to view “Birds in Art” 2020 was Saturday, September 12. As a Covid-19 precaution, all Birds in Art opening-day festivities were suspended; there was no Master Artist Talk and no Artists in Action on Saturday morning, September 12. Before visiting this fall, to know what to bring and expect. The Museum’s extended opening-weekend hours were 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, September 12, and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, September 13. Birds in Art 2020 is extended through Sunday, February 21, 2021. Before visiting, check

Ever inspired by avian muses, Birds in Art 2020 artists took cues from birds’ behavior and some incorporated quarantine themes, too. While Karen Bondarchuk drew parallels in her Cashe ‘n’ Carry charcoal of blue jays competing at the feeder, much like shoppers at grocery stores last spring, Sherrie York’s linocut A Tern of the Tide features a solitary seabird, underscoring the importance of quiet moments alone but also of community. David Milton took a whimsical approach, while Nancy Howe used circling crows to convey its ominous nature. In Claire Duncan’s painting of white pelicans, one bold bird swivels to lead the swimming flock out of the advancing shadows, which she described as “a metaphor for the times in which we live.”

Other artists also reference birds’ work habits and amusing antics. Creating a vivid yellow watercolor painting of a spectacled weaver, Robin Berry used a giant calligraphy brush to paint the bird’s body in three bold strokes, as confidently as this bird when weaving its intricate nest. Tom Hill’s twisted wire sculpture captures two wacky birds’ interaction via the subtle tilt of their heads.

Browse galleries to see fresh artistic takes on birds by some of the world’s most talented artists in an array of mediums, portraying unexpected perspectives, amusing poses, and majestic bearing. Since 1976, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum has organized Birds in Art annually, seeking to present the best contemporary artistic interpretations of these avian wonders.

New Mexico artist Timothy David Mayhew, the Woodson Art Museum’s 2020 Master Artist, the Museum’s 39th Master Artist

Mayhew, an acclaimed artist dedicated to field observation and firsthand study of birds and animals, also employs European Old Master practices – techniques and mediums favored by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo – creating preparatory drawings, oil studies, and plein air paintings to work out composition design and color harmonies. Mayhew prefers to draw with natural, quarried chalks – red, white, black, and yellow – another Renaissance practice that he researched, revived, and has written about extensively.

Mayhew’s journey as an artist, he said, “has been a long and often solitary one, striving to perfect drawing, composition, and painting skills.”

“For me, it is about getting out of bed long before the sun rises to hike my gear to just the right location to witness and study nature at its finest,” Mayhew said. “It takes years, decades even, to be able to capture the subtleties of the quality of light and the unique behaviors of the charismatic megafauna I encounter. When the many years of diligence and hard work are rewarded, especially by the affect my artwork has on viewers and occasionally by receiving awards, it makes it all worthwhile.”

In announcing the 2020 Master Wildlife Artist, director Kathy Kelsey Foley said, “Timothy’s notable career references Old Master practices and mediums that imbue his highly accomplished artworks – oil paintings and chalk drawings, alike – with both a seriousness and a distinct, uniquely Mayhew quality. Timothy adds another dimension to the Woodson Art Museum’s Master Artist roster.”

Timothy David Mayhew, Goose Down, 2018, oil on Belgian linen, Woodson Art Museum collection

When Mayhew received the news of his Master Artist selection via a phone call from Museum director Kathy Kelsey Foley, “I nearly dropped the phone,” he said. “In the past, I have been fortunate to receive awards for my work and have even received academic accolades for the research I’ve done on the traditional drawing materials of the Old Masters; the Woodson Art Museum Master Artist recognition takes me to a new level.”

Mayhew said he is humbled to join the ranks of the Museum’s previously named Master Wildlife Artists, including Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, Lars Jonsson, and Raymond Harris-Ching. “These are the artists who I look up to,” Mayhew said, “and have greatly inspired me and guided my career.”

Prioritizing fieldwork is crucial to Mayhew; each year he embarks upon intensive study of a new bird or mammal species. “Although time consuming,” Mayhew said, “I’ve found it essential to the creation of art to take frequent forays into the natural environment to study the landscapes and the elegant creatures that inhabit them.”

Timothy David Mayhew, Frontal Study of a Long-billed Curlew, 2012, natural black, red, yellow, and white chalk on handmade gray wove paper, Woodson Art Museum collection

Mayhew’s intensive research throughout four decades of European Old Master drawing materials yielded useful knowledge aiding his field studies. During the Renaissance, natural chalks were quarried from the earth and sawn into short sticks for drawing. Natural red and natural black chalk have unique properties, he says, “which enable drawings to survive rough handling in remote back-country settings.”

From depictions of regal trumpeter swans gliding near a shore, snow geese huddled on ice, and little blue herons fishing at sunrise to plump chukars perched on a branch and wading terns, a long-billed curlew or an American avocet in a tidal lagoon, Mayhew’s artwork – first selected in 2010 for inclusion in Birds in Art – has been juried into the exhibition nine times. During a four-day Woodson Art Museum residency in October 2016, Mayhew led programs and demonstrations utilizing traditional metalpoint and natural chalk drawing materials used by the Old Masters from the 14th through 18th centuries.

Mayhew’s oil paintings and natural-chalk drawings capture the essence of sensory experiences in the wild – the solidarity of three trumpeter-swan cygnets’ escape across a river amid echoing wolf howls, the intricate complexity of reflections in water, bone-chilling cold during snow-geese migration, chukars’ animated interactions, and the magical pre-dawn glow in a marsh. A selection of Timothy David Mayhew artworks will comprise his 2020 Birds in Art Master Artist grouping.

Born in 1952, Mayhew completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, and he received a doctorate in 1978 from Wayne State University in Detroit. Seeking to expand upon his formal education, Mayhew studied for several years with painter Bob Kuhn to learn how to depict animals in their natural environment. He also studied landscape painting en plein air with Clyde Aspevig and Matt Smith.

In addition to nine previous Birds in Art exhibitions, Mayhew’s artwork has been featured in numerous U.S. exhibitions and garnered awards and honors. His natural chalk drawings are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Art Institute of Chicago, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum also hold his paintings and drawings. Mayhew and his work have been featured in several publications, including Western Art and Architecture, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Fine Art Connoisseur, and Southwest Art.

Mayhew’s research has been published in four issues of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 2010-2014. He served as a consultant to curators and conservators at the J. Paul Getty Museum on 19th-century traditional French drawing materials and techniques for a May 2016 exhibition there and authored a chapter for the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition.

Mayhew lives in Farmington, New Mexico, and this “Four Corners” area bordering Arizona, Colorado, and Utah provides a varied environment for his fieldwork excursions. There he founded the Atelier Cedar Ridge, a professional working studio and research facility designed to study the drawing materials and techniques favored by Old Master artists. He and his wife, Rose, have two daughters and one son.

The 2020 Birds in Art exhibition features a selection of Mayhew’s artwork along with more than 100 original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last three years by artists from throughout the world. The exhibition’s full-color catalogue, featuring an essay about the 2020 Master Artist, is available for purchase at the Woodson Art Museum and online.

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Birds in Art is an international juried exhibition organized annually by the Woodson Art Museum.

Exhibition Highlights

Robert Bateman, Barn Owl at Biddulph Hall, 2020, acrylic on hardboard
Thomas Hill, Scribble Birds, 2020, paint on wood and steel wire
Robin Berry, A Weaver’s Skill, 2018, watercolor
Rebecca Korth, Chickadee & Strawberries, 2019, oil on gessoed hardboard
Walter T. Matia, No Country for Old Frogs, 2018, bronze
David Milton, Duck on Bike, 2020, watercolor and pastel on Arches paper
Jeremy Paul, Blue Door, India, 2020, acrylic on board
Karen Bondarchuk, Cache ‘n’ Carry, 2020, charcoal and pastel on Rives BFK paper
Sherrie York, A Tern of the Tide, 2020, reduction linocut on Rives BFK paper

Thanks to the members, donors, grantors, and sponsors who support the Birds in Art  exhibition and programs.



Birds in Art® is an international juried exhibition organized annually by the Woodson Art Museum. Presenting sponsorship support for Birds in Art comes from Aspirus, Inc., Aspirus Health Plan, and the IncredibleBank Foundation. Additional educational support comes from John and Nancy Skoug. Birds in Art media support comes from Wisconsin Public Radio. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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