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Animal Paintings

Gina Sawin

Opening Reception: Wednesday, May 16, 2001, 5:30-7:00 PM
Exhibition Dates: May 17 to June 21, 2001

Painting of two herrings

Painting of herring hunting for fish in pond

Painting of a bull moose

As the founding member of the American Association for the Advancement and Appreciation of Animals in Art and Architecture, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern welcomes a solo exhibition of oil paintings by Gina Sawin in the Arsenal Gallery.

The painter's works on canvas are renderings of undomesticated animals depicted as inextricably linked to their natural habitat. Sawin's devoted observation and expressive interpretation of her subject evokes the passion of the naturalist. Relying on her craft as painter, Sawin uses pointillist brushwork to capture the blended splendor of wild animals and their serene environment.

Gina Sawin received her formal art education at Parsons School of Design and has worked as a graphic designer for the National Wildlife Federation. Currently painting and residing in Maine, she has had solo shows in Maine and in Washington D.C.

Artist's Statement

When asked about the choice of animals as subjects for my paintings, I resist the temptation to answer dismissively, "why apples?" or, for that matter, "why a landscape without animals?" It is tempting to dismiss the question because for me there is no question: I never consciously or strategically decided upon these themes. I simply couldn't see or think about anything else with the same interest. I think that painters instinctively find the best vehicle for, or the best way to sustain, their artistic purpose. I, along with those who have taught and influenced me, am interested in principles of abstraction as they are manifested in representation. The formal concerns, the spatial pushes and pulls across a flat surface as well as painting's more poetic and symbolic possibilities, can be as well explored via animals as through any subject.

I certainly don't mean to suggest that these subjects are secondary to the formal concerns of painting. These paintings are clearly and undeniably about my love of animals but with the idea that harmonies in nature are echoed in the very language of painting. One could not separate the images in the prehistoric cave paintings from the spirit in which they were produced, and while my purpose is of course quite different from the motives of the cave painters, there is a reference in my work to the timelessness of the man/animal relationship. I think that relationship is ever relevant and compelling, and, as we become either better, or worse, stewards of the natural world, one that invites ongoing evaluation. The animals I paint are not scenery. Rather, in their solitary situations they are almost emblematic - the brushwork weaves them into their environments, while they quietly confront the viewer with the idea that the landscape is a shared space.

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