Canvassing a sad truth

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At first, Gloria Chadwick’s Oil collection, “The End in Sight,” looks like a proud parade of majestic birds and beasts. A closer look reveals a sadder truth.

At first, Gloria Chadwick’s Oil collection, “The End in Sight,” looks like a proud parade of majestic birds and beasts. A closer look reveals a sadder truth.

Displayed in the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation’s ‘Art in the Park’ Gallery, Chadwick’s paintings depict animals like the giraffe, the Siberian tiger, and the water buffalo, along with a dozen or so other animals currently endangered or extinct. They come into sharp contrast with the sounds of thriving life just outside the nature center. 

With soft colors and bold strokes, she frames each creature with a sense of awe and wonder. Many gaze presidentially into unseen futures out of frame, while others are drawn from the back, their tails hanging low as they walk themselves out of the picture and away from the viewers. 

In one painting, a cheetah retreats into a dark jungle scape, its features drooping and defeated, described in the caption: “No Place to Run – New highway going through the middle of the Serengeti.” 

In another painting, a rhino teeters along a ridge with his head and shoulders disappearing into the glaring sun. The caption reads, “Almost Gone – killed for horn only, left to rot.”

It is a timely exhibit, considering that the last male white rhino died just a few weeks ago. 

From the dodo bird to a series of monkeys hunted for meat and large cats killed as pests, the exhibit uses a broad brush to give attention to the issues facing the planet’s animals, though it is by no means exhaustive. 

Between sets of photos are framed questions like, “What will you do?” 

And as if to make certain that viewers do not feel disconnected from the problems of habitat loss, pollution and poaching currently endangering animals on far-away continents, Chadwick includes a bevy of animals found in the Western Hemisphere who have faced similar fates. 

Perhaps most moving is the collection of tributes to protective measures passed by governmental or private agencies to protect our nation’s wildlife. Staring proudly, if not a little somberly, at viewers are eagles, sea lions and buffalo, brought back from the edge of extinction to tentatively survive for one more generation. 

Chadwick has a glorious, albeit bittersweet, talent for bringing the deep appearance of emotion and purpose to these incredible animals, bestowing upon them almost human attributes which engender mutual respect and empathy from their audience – though, ‘audience’ seems too trite a word, as this collection begs its viewers to be participants in the conversation and not observers only. 

It is clear that Chadwicks great oil animals are in a parade, lined up along the walls of the gallery in proceeding columns – but it is a melancholy occasion. It is a funeral procession, a sad farewell to beloved creatures too poorly looked after. 

The show runs from Mar. 21 – April 13. For more information, see the Mission Trails Regional Park website: http://mtrp.org/art-show/.

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