Wausau, Wisconsin: The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum announces New Mexico artist Timothy David Mayhew as its 2020 Master Artist who will be honored during the Museum’s 45th annual “Birds in Art” exhibition this fall.
Mayhew, the Woodson Art Museum’s 39th Master Artist, will discuss his career and artwork during his Master Artist presentation on “Birds in Art” opening morning, Saturday, September 12, in the Museum’s sculpture garden.
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.”
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.”
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, on view, Saturday, September 12 through Sunday, November 29, will feature 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, will be available for purchase in September at the Woodson Art Museum.
Woodson Art Museum Hours
First Thurs of each month 9am–7:30pm
Thursdays during Birds in Art 9am–7:30pm
Closed Mon & holidays, including New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas
Admission: Always Free Admission
Location: 700 N. 12th Street (Franklin & 12th Streets), Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007