In a Natural State: Barry Van Dusen Paints the Nature of Mass Audubon
“Field sketching is at the core of my work,” says artist Barry Van Dusen. As artist-in-residence for the Museum of American Bird Art, he has visited nearly all of Mass Audubon’s 56 wildlife sanctuaries over the past two years, from the Berkshires to the Islands. His watercolors chronicle the rich and diverse landscapes, habitats, and wildlife found on this extraordinary array of properties.
Drawing and painting from direct observation have been essential to Van Dusen’s artistic practice since his student days. He brings this rich experience to the task of capturing compelling natural history moments.
He says, “Field sketching has become my way of exploring and discovering the natural world. My sketchbooks are my science lab and my art workshop. Through the drawing process, I’m able to uncover the underlying patterns of nature and see how plants and animals interact with their environment and each other.”
For his residency project, Van Dusen has created more than 100 paintings, done both in the field and in his studio. Nearly half are on display in this stunning exhibition, as well as some of his field sketches. Visitors will view virtuoso watercolors depicting a wide variety of flora and fauna, from Yellow Lady’s Slippers at High Ledges Sanctuary in Shelburne to a Kestrel at Arcadia Sanctuary in Easthampton and Diamond Terrapin hatchlings at Wellfleet Bay on Cape Cod.
Van Dusen’s art has received international acclaim. At the invitation of the Artists for Nature Foundation, he has traveled to Spain, England, Ireland, India, Peru and Israel, working alongside other wildlife artists to raise money for conservation of threatened habitats.
In 2014, he was named Master Artist by the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, joining the ranks of Roger Tory Peterson and Robert Bateman in receiving this highest accolade for bird artists.
As illustrator of many publications, Van Dusen’s long association with Mass Audubon spans nearly thirty years. His work has also appeared in books published by HarperCollins, Princeton University Press, and Cornell University. Periodicals that have featured his paintings include Yankee magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, Birder’s World, Birds Illustrated, and Wildlife Art.