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When last I exhibited my paintings at the Museum of American Bird Art I was experiencing a kind of artist’s mid-life crisis. At the time, I was in transition from my early career as a field guide illustrator into a full-time oil painter. And Finding a Place for Birds, the title of my 2002 MABA show, alluded to my ongoing search for a new visual language with which I could combine my lifelong passion for birds with my rediscovery of plein air landscape painting.
So I am thrilled to return to MABA fifteen years later with Birdscapes: Recent Paintings by James Coe.
Featured in this new show will be nearly three dozen oil paintings that represent a now fully-realized personal style that is less about bird painting and more an exultation of my experiences in nature. Kathy Foley, director of the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin has described my birdscapes as "ethereal, moody, and sensitive all at once."
Whether or not a bird is literally represented in my paintings, I believe that my life-long love of birds informs and permeates every canvas. Indeed, when I am painting outdoors, I am keenly aware of all the birds active around me as I work. I hear every song; each and every call and I mentally add each bird to a list for the day. Those birds present at that location on that particular day become integral to the art that I create. And back in the studio, I find a way to express that awareness by painting one of those birds into a larger, more carefully considered statement of that motif.
Also on display in Birdscapes are a dozen small oil-on-paper studies that I have never before exhibited anywhere. These are quick single-session (a la prima) notations for my own reference; to test the validity of a painting idea, or to explore a particular color scheme or composition. Most are painted late at night and reflect a freedom and care-free approach to painting that I wish I could maintain at all times.
I am excited to share these studies for the first time.
A reception for the opening of this exhibition will take place on Sunday, January 29, from 1:00 pm–5:00 pm. There will be a Gallery talk at 2:30 pm and light refreshments.
A birder since the age of twelve, Jim Coe studied biology at Harvard University and painting at Parsons School of Design. He has spent more than thirty years melding art and science into a life as naturalist, field guide illustrator, landscape and wildlife artist.
Today he paints full-time, working both in plein air and in his studio. His paintings are held in museum and corporate collections across the country and he is the recipient of national and international awards.