Zoo Staff Get Passionate About Animals for Art Exhibit

HomeAround the ZooZoo Staff Get Passionate About Animals for Art Exhibit

It is no surprise to me that many of my co-workers at the Santa Barbara Zoo have artistic talent. We are a passionate bunch. Passion often is expressed artistically. That makes sense.

But I am no artist. I’m a writer. My attempts at drawing or painting look like the work of a third-grader (that still may be too kind). But I can color. So I looked to Andy Warhol as my guru for creating a piece for our first-ever Employee Art Show.

Warhol’s colorful homage to Marilyn Monroe were silkscreens. I used Photoshop to mask sections and “color” several photos of a California condor, taken by Sheri Horiszny, our Director of Animal Care. That lovely female condor, number 464, is on view in our California Trails exhibit. (Have the words “Marilyn Monroe” and “California condor” ever been used together before? Another first at the Santa Barbara Zoo!)

Sheri is known for her amazing photography skills – her works hang in the Zoo’s reception office, Ridley-Treehouse restaurant, employee lounge, and other administrative areas. For this exhibit, she chose a striking image of the Zoo’s young Amur leopard, Wyatt, as he peers out from his exhibit. “I find him one of the Zoo’s most dynamic and engaging animals,” she says.

Senior Bird Keeper Jill Cunningham drew one of her charges, a Chilean flamingo. “Dakota was hand-raised and very comfortable around people,” she reports. “He has a lot of personality, and this drawing comes from a photo I took of him when he was striking a pose.”

The exhibit features nine photographs, several graphite drawings, ink on canvas, acrylic paintings, a mosaic made of sea glass, a glass etching, and a recycled paint collage. They come from not only animal care, but from throughout the staff ranks.

Duff Kennedy, Foundation & Corporate Relations Officer, took a break from his desk job writing grants to watch the white-handed gibbons, and came away with a memorable photograph. “They were in fine form, chasing each other,” he recalls. “Suddenly, a duck flew behind Jasmine and landed in the moat. I caught her shift in interest; her ‘what was that?’ moment.”

Several works are made from unique materials, including two fishing rods with intricate thread and epoxy details (made by a Maintenance staff member), a giraffe stencil on old boards (from the Director of Education), and a surfboard painted in colors inspired by a scarlet macaw’s feather (by a reptile keeper).

All take their inspiration from the natural world, but not all are of the Zoo’s animal residents.

Senior Keeper of Elephants Liz Beem was visiting Zion National Park when she spotted a rarely-seen bighorn sheep; a species that is on the federal endangered species list. “By 1950 they were thought to be extinct, but today their numbers are increasing through reintroduction efforts,” says Beem. “It is still considered uncommon to see them.”

And mine isn’t the only work inspired by California condors.

“A soaring California condor is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen,” says Assistant Curator of Birds Carol Hunsperger.

So is her glass etching.

The 27 original works in the 2015 Zoo Employee Art Show are for sale, and several have already sold. Prices range from $65 to $500 and half the proceeds are donated to the Zoo. The exhibit is on view through March 22.

Julia McHugh

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Julia McHugh, APR, is the Zoo's Director of Public Relations.