The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto wants you to take a walk on the wild side.
The museum's exhibit, "George LaVanish: Wild Art," features 60 works by the Tyrone wildlife artist, and runs through Jan. 22.
"He's been described as a master of the fur, fish and game niche, and he is, in his own right, a very talented and acclaimed wildlife artist," Gary Moyer, the museum's executive director, said of LaVanish. "Anybody who has any familiarity with outdoor writers or magazines such as Field & Stream - well, that should create a pretty clear vision in your mind of what this exhibit is like. It's an exhibit that should attract the attention of art lovers and those in love with the great outdoors."
Mirror photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
Wildlife artist George?LaVanish works in his home studio outside Tyrone.
"Wild Art" celebrates the wonders of nature while showcasing the artistic brilliance of one of the region's most ac-claimed artists, Moyer said. The exhibition, which began June 18, features a collection of paintings, drawings and limited edition edition prints of a variety of wildlife, each rendered in vivid, lifelike detail.
"You'll see everything from wild turkeys, wolves, white-tailed deer, elk, bears and fish - much of which are part and parcel of west central Pennsylvania - to exotic animals such as leopards and water buffalo," Moyer said, adding fisherman especially will marvel at LaVanish's ability to capture the subtle nuances of a variety of fish.
LaVanish was tapped to create the 2006 through 2010 Pennsylvania Trout Stamp Designs, he said.
If you go
What: "George LaVanish: Wild Art"
Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto on the St. Francis University Campus
When: Through Jan. 22, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays
More information: The museum will celebrate the exhibit at a reception on August 13. For reservations or more information, call 472-3920.
A native of Indiana County, LaVanish, 57, now resides on his 170-acre Tyrone estate, where he is surrounded by forest and wildlife, according to the exhibition's press release. The artist polished his natural abilities at the Art Institute of Philadel-phia in 1972 before applying his skills for both Penn State University's art department (Univer-sity Park) from 1974 to 1984, then HRB Singer Inc., (now part of Raytheon Intelli-gence and Information Systems), a defense contractor located in State College. In 1994, he quit Singer and went to work as a full-time artist.
"Growing up as a hunter and fisherman and seeing some of the wildlife magazines - that got me interested in wildlife art, and I started pursuing that," he said, adding he got his start drawing for Game News, The Pennsylvania Game Commission's official publication.
As a freelance artist, he's created illustrations for 10 books, in addition to numerous stories and magazine covers, the release states. His greatest success, however, has come from the print department, the release states. In 1991, he established the wildlife art print and publishing company, Wilderness Editions, which is still going to this day.
Soon after, he was contracted by Trout Unlimited to create three print series featuring brook, brown and rainbow trout. As the project progressed, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter became involved and agreed to co-sign a special edition of each annual print.
"That was pretty cool," he said. "When I found out, I was pretty excited. (Carter) doesn't get involved in a lot of things like art prints and things like that."
Recently, LaVanish has been working with Safari Club International on a series of paintings of animals from around the world, he said. He'll produce one painting annually, which will then be used as a four-inch collector embroidered patch that will accompany the limited edition print.
"The (Safari) project is going over pretty well," he said. "I just finished up my third year for that. In fact, two of the originals from the project are at the museum right now (the leopard and cape buffalo paintings)."
LaVanish's work has raised large amounts of money for many conservation and state programs, Bobby Moore, the museum's collections manager/exhibtion curator, said, adding he's worked with The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, The National Wild Turkey Federation, The Wildlands Conservancy among others. His art is widely collected and has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions through the U.S.
"I think this is the first time we've ever featured a wildlife exhibition, so I'm pretty excited ... the work is phenomenal," she said. "It hasn't gotten a lot of publicity yet, but it's been very well-received. Several people have come to me and said what a fabulous show it is, and that they're going to come back with friends and relatives."
She expects the exhibit will appeal to a vast cross section of people.
"This exhibit is destined to introduce art to a new audience - the sportsmen and sportswomen of Pennsylvania, as well as invoke an appreciation for art, nature and wildlife in all who view it ... I can't see anybody leaving this show without a sense of awe."
LaVanish cited "The Contenders," a 2-feet by 4-feet painting depicting what he called "two life-size gobblers," as his favorite artistic achievement.
"It's just a neat-looking painting," he said. "That would have to be my favorite."
His hopes for the exhibit are true to Moore's.
"Hopefully, people will be able to see and appreciate the time and work that goes into creating the art," he said. "And just take away an appreciation of nature."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.