By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on March 22nd, 2023
Tall Paul poses beside his sculpture Who Cooks for You?, which is perched atop a fence post lining the Museum’s Sculpture Garden.
Artist Paul Rhymer may not want praise, but he deserves it. His talent, warmth, and skill are matched only by his modesty…. maybe his height, too.
The list is long of “Rhymer reasons” behind Paul’s recognition as the Woodson Art Museum’s 2023 Master Wildlife Artist. His diverse work and life experiences – from Smithsonian taxidermist to reality television judge – have molded (pun intended) the artist he is today. His seemingly endless depth of knowledge in animal and avian physiology, his upbringing surrounded by art and artists, his travels in pursuit of wildlife, be it for ideal fishing or collecting an elusive species for the Smithsonian have made Paul the epitome of a well-rounded individual.
Rhymer’s reverence and sensitivity toward his subjects is evident not only in his sculptural depictions of them but also through the personal connections he makes between wildlife and human existence. Friends of the artist, current events, even fables inspire his work. Drawing parallels between animal and human behaviors are one thing but Paul’s ability to imbue such familiar gestures and interactions into his sculpture make his work not only accessible to viewers but enables the work to function like representations of universal experiences.
Paul Rhymer, Rant and Skeptic (ed. 25), 2014, bronze on wood and steel
As I’ve said and written dozens of times, connecting with visiting artists is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. Learning about their work during Museum programming and conversations during residencies is always memorable and reminiscent, perhaps, of making fast and furious friendships during summer camp as a kid.
Paul during his 2014 Artists in Action demonstration looking more like a kid playing with toys. :)
Paul has spent time with Museum staff several times over the years via residency programming, onsite installations, and, of course, Birds in Art opening weekend festivities. During his 2013 residency, Paul led a bronze-casting workshop, which I was fortunate enough to participate in. Walking a dozen or so people through the lost-wax casting process over three days is no small feat but Paul rose to the challenge of patiently encouraging and guiding the group from sculpting in wax to casting and adding patina. Paul helped me make a small bronze fox, which I still consider to be one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do at the Museum over my eleven years as a curator of education.
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating with Master Artist Paul Rhymer this fall during the 2023 Birds in Art opening celebration. Big congrats to you, Paul, from a “bunny hugger” fan in Wausau.
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Catie Anderson, curator of education