A Panoramic Adventure
Introduction by Todd Wilkinson
Author, Last Stand: Ted Turner`s Quest To Save A Troubled Planet
Imagine a line of seven vertical panels, visually interlocking, that serve
as an epic picture window opening into an Edenic panorama of Africa.
The centerpiece is ten-feet high and five-feet wide. It stands three-feet
off the ground reaching a height of more than one story tall. It is flanked
by six other panels that form a wide-angle vision into the arc of the
savannah. It engages us. It invites us in. It makes us think. It appeals to
seasoned travelers and it commands awe from children . . .
Filling the scenes are dramatic portrayals of predators and prey as only Brian Jarvi can
paint them. It is a grand idyllic montage. As one point of visual entry, we, as primates, relate to the point of view of a bonobo, a pygmy chimpanzee, seated on an elephant. He is looking down on a human in the scene, which symbolically represents humanity. In this grandeur we are confronted with the possibility that all of it could disappear.
What Brian Jarvi endeavors to create is something momentously novel—a grand panoramic
that invites viewers to become a participant in the experience. Jarvi`s ambitious concept is
without rival among his living contemporaries in wildlife art.
Regarded as one of the finest dramatic painters in the wildlife genre, Jarvi is also a
conservationist who seeks to address ecological challenges through his art. An African Menagerie: The Inquisition addresses an extinction crisis that presently confronts six major species.
Unlike extinctions going back to the age of dinosaurs, the current episode is the only one that
has occurred during the tenure of Homo sapiens—Man. The spiraling loss of biological diversity,
prominent ecologists say, stands to erase many of the Earth`s iconic megafauna and other
smaller animals that imbue our quality of life with wild richness.
The compelling question that Jarvi posses through his art is this: Are we as a society going
to let extinction happen on our watch? Or will we take action? He does not see it framed as a
partisan issue. For him, it is a moral and ethical question that strikes at the very heart of our ability as a species to empathize with the plight of other life forms.
Earth`s ecological crisis is most starkly visible, he says, in sub-Saharan Africa, a setting
that, to date, has been featured in many of Jarvi`s most acclaimed paintings.
From jungles around the equator where mountain gorillas and chimpanzees barely endure
in scattered pockets, southward to the Serengeti Plain, Kalahari Desert, Okavango Delta, and the velds of South Africa and Zimbabwe, the animals whose very iconic presence pronounces
wildness to billions are dwindling at alarming rates.
Consider the roster: black and white rhinoceros, elephant, zebra, lion, leopard, cheetah,
Cape buffalo, and giraffe. Some are being lost to rampant poaching, others to the effects of war and human poverty, habitat destruction and the onset of climate change. Most, however, are
confronting a combination of all of the above.
For many North Americans, awareness of what`s occurring is minimized by the geographic
distance between here and there. Jarvi wants to close the gap using art as a bridge.
Documenting the project will be a coffee-table book by Todd Wilkinson, author of such books as Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, and Kent Ullberg: Monuments to Nature. The book is pending publication by Rizzoli Publications, New York.
The complete exhibition of AFRICAN MENAGERIE is scheduled to premiere at The Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University, KS from October 1 to December 21, 2017; and tour from January 20 to April 5, 2018 at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, NJ in the New York City Metropolitan area; and from April 26 to July 15, 2018 to Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH. Additional Venues are pending.
All Artworks 2017 © Brian Jarvi
Photography Credit: Steven M. Tiggemann, TiggCreative