Lovers of painting - especially of natural art - will want to be certain to make your way to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute before Jan. 8.
Exhibited in the beautiful headquarters building of the RTPI is an exhibition of the watercolors and watercolor sculptures by Dan Meyer, and the oil and acrylic paintings by Len Rusin. Both artists are gifted and bring qualities to their subjects which make the trip to the Curtis Street institute well-worth the trip.
This particular exhibit is entirely located on the ground floor of the building. On entering the main entrance and paying admission, walk straight away from the front door. When you reach the open doors to a small, internal gallery, which is showing an unrelated exhibit relating to the remains of a giant mammoth, which were discovered in Randolph many years back, turn to your right and you will be looking directly at the door to the Green Gallery, which contains the majority of the Meyer/Rusin exhibit.
The paintings have been arranged roughly in order of the period of the year which is represented in them. The first painting is ''Last of the Snow,'' by Rusin, which is a portrayal of a plowed field in the last days of real winter, in which the earth is beginning to thaw and look like soil instead of mud, and yet in the furrows, where the slowly warming sun hasn't yet reached, patches of crusty, dirty snow still cling.
As you walk along that wall of the gallery, then turn left at the corner, you find yourself seeing warmer and more lively scenes until by the third wall, you are seeing summer in all its splendor.
Continue out the far door of the Green Gallery and you will find yourself in a long, squared, U-shaped corridor which wraps around the central gallery with the mammoth's remains.
Continue around that corridor, past harvest scenes and autumn hunting scenes, and finally you'll arrive at the winter paintings, and at the very end, the dying winter/rising spring images which immediately call to memory where you began.
The whole exhibit can be seen in about an hour, even if you stop and ponder over your favorite images and discuss them with your companions. The institute is located at 311 Curtis St. That is the street which runs perpendicular to East Second Street and also to Falconer Street. It runs along the edge of the Jamestown Community College campus and past their athletic facilities. The RTPI is clearly marked on your left,
just after you pass the tennis courts. Parking is free and plentiful.
In addition to the gallery shows, while you're there, you can take a leaf walk in the institute's nature preserve, enjoying woodland trails, a small pond and other nature sites which will make you quickly forget that you're inside the city limits.
The institute has provided an interdisciplinary education program to accompany the exhibit, which is suitable to students of all ages.
Admission to the wooded property is free. Admission to the institute's headquarters and its displays of art costs $6 for the general public, and $4 for children and students. Members of the institute get in for free. If you have questions, you can phone them at 665-2473. You can arrange a class field trip by phoning the same number and when you get the recorded answering message, press extension 228 and speak with Mark Baldwin, who is their education assistant.
The Institute is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Sundays, they're open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday is their day off.
I'd like to tell you more about each of the artists, and about their work, which is available to see at the RTPI.
Len Rusin is now a full-time nature artist, having recently retired after 34 years of teaching art in the schools of Niagara Falls, N.Y.
He has served as artist-in-residence at both Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona, and Acadia National Park, in Maine. His painting ''A Quick Drink'' - a painting of an elk, wading into a stream - won the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation Habitat Stamp Award for 2010. He is a member of the International Guild of Realism. He lives in the Buffalo area.
The website ''natureartists.com'' describes his paintings as capturing not just nature, but the feeling of being part of nature. His works have impressive compositions, giving enough background to create a feeling of the natural location, but not so much that the eye has to be forced to focus on the subject of the painting.
His eye for color is especially impressive. Certain elements of nature, such as the autumn hillsides of our part of the country, have almost become a cliche, and have been painted and photographed and portrayed with the suggestion that no comment is needed from the artist: that the beauty and the exotic quality of the scene speak for themselves.
One of my very favorite of Rusin's paintings is hung near the end of the two-artist exhibit, among the paintings portraying winter scenes.
Titled ''The Old Buck Stops Here,'' it is a portrait in oils of a buck which has grown large with age, and which carries an impressive armory on his head. We see him lying on the forest floor, his mottled grays and browns blending well with the dead leaves, twigs and other covering of the ground. A few snow flakes have lodged in his pelt, making him look even more difficult to identify. Only his head, raised at a defiant angle from his body, and his alert, shining brown eyes portray a lively spirit, ready to leap out of the seeming tranquility of the scene for a fight or a careening flight.
''Missed That One'' is an oil painting which shows us a bear, wading up to his shoulders in a lake or a stream. Well to one side, a fish is shown, leaping from the water, and the expression on the bear's face show his frustration at not being close enough to make a meal of the fish. Again, it's a scene which could sink to cliche, if there was the slightest hint of a cartoon expression on the bear's face.
But, anyone who has ever owned a pet has seen and heard that snort of frustration which means that the animal knows that the joke is on him. And that is the artistry of the painting.
''Midday Challenge'' is a painting in which the subjects walk the delicate line of balance between drama and comedy. It is an oil painting which shows two giant hippos - which we have been trained by decades of Disney films to consider comic - which seem at first glance to be smiling at one another with their wide, happy mouths.
A closer look, though, shows us the curving, fierce-looking tusks in their mouths, and we realize in a moment that we are looking at a scene which could prove deadly for either animal, or for anyone or anything which got in their way. Nature is beautiful, but can be terrible without a great deal of warning.
Although they are mixed together in the exhibit, Rusin's website extensively cites the difference between his ''plein air'' art, which is painted out in nature, and studio work, which is done indoors, often using photographs and artificial light.
I counted 28 of Rusin's paintings in the show. He has a website at www.lenrusinart.com.
Dan Meyer is a commercial artist, with more than 30 years of experience. Included in the RTPI exhibit are a number of examples of his work in advertising, including an image on a T-shirt, a floral pattern on a box, created to hold a giant chocolate Easter egg, a nature painting, intended to illustrate a short story in a national magazine, and the like.
Nearly all of Meyer's work is done with watercolors, although he has some prints of his original works for sale at the exhibit, as are the originals themselves, which have been done in giclee. The word ''giclee,'' was first used in the early 1990s, to refer to fine art prints which are created using a fade-resistant, archival print, done on a high resolution, ink jet printer.
The word giclee comes from the French verb ''gicler,'' which means ''to squirt.'' It was developed to differentiate between low quality prints which might be made on any home printer, and high-quality prints, made in high definition and with often stunning detail.
The prints are the same size as the originals, not the size of a sheet of letter paper, as some have assumed from the name.
Meyer is a graduate of the Pittsburgh Art Institute, and considers himself ''a watercolor purist,'' which means he avoids opaque mediums and uses only transparent colors. He produces whites in his painting by painting darker colors around a space to be portrayed as white, and allowing the bare paper to create the white space.
A second glass case in the Green Gallery demonstrates Meyer's creative techniques, including taking photographs and sketching from life. One of his sketches of an otter, for example has details he has written right on the face of the drawing, to be sure he remembers them when he gets back to his studio. Next to the drawing of the otter's tail, he has written ''Long tail. Almost black when wet.''
Although he paints flowers, trees and animals, Meyer's favorite subjects are birds, and the 23 originals in his Jamestown exhibit are mostly paintings of the birds.
One of my favorites was titled ''Sparrow's Song,'' and it portrays a song sparrow which has flown between the observer and the sun. The result has created vivid, stunning colors in the sunlit leaves and blue sky around the bird, including some of those blinding whites which he has just described.
One technique which I especially admired was turning two-dimensional water color paintings into what he calls ''watercolor sculptures.'' In those, he uses watercolor paper, which he has soaked and painted, to put three dimensional objects on the face of his paintings.
In one called ''Grandes Aigrette,'' which translates ''Great Egret,'' he has portrayed the large wading bird spreading his wings to their full expanse, possibly challenging other birds to fight. But the artist has built up tree trunks from the surface which look completely natural, but form almost a set of prison bars, as though the bird has finally won release.
Another of the ''sculptures'' is called ''Rabbit Tracks.'' Although the surface of the painting is mostly white snow, there are visible tracks, as though a rabbit has scurried past. Rising from the white surface are a number of evergreen branches, as though the viewer had stuck his head in, among the brightly colored needles. At the end of a branch is a vivid, red cardinal, whose bright colors naturally draw the focus and give the impression of being drawn through the branches, to greet the bird.
I greatly enjoyed my afternoon on Curtis Street, and suspect you would enjoy a visit there as well.
Some Canadian events have caught the Critical Eye this week.
On Oct. 30, the Shaw Festival, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, concluded their milestone 50th season, breaking a number of records, in the process.
It seems that 274,800 people from all around the world, including from every Canadian province and from every American state, made their way into one or more of the festival's four presenting theaters. That was 13,000 more - or 5 percent - than in 2010.
''My Fair Lady,'' the Lerner and Lowe musical created from George Bernard Shaw's play ''Pygmalion,'' was seen by 95,000 of those ticket buyers, making it the most successful production in the festival's history.
Niagara Region Tourism estimates that the Shaw Festival attracts more than 100 million tourist dollars into their economy.
Tickets are now on sale for the 2012 season, which will run from April 10 through Oct. 28 of next year. The new season will feature 11 productions in repertory, some of which will run the full season and others of which will close during the season or open later in the season.
The Festival Theatre will present the musical show ''Ragtime,'' based on the novel by Doctorow. They will also present ''Present Laughter,'' by Noel Coward, and ''His Girl Friday,'' an adaptation of ''The Front Page'' by Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur.
The smaller, more immediate Court House Theatre will be the setting of ''A Man and Some Women'' by Githa Sowerby, which deals with a man who is desperate to accept a position as a scientific advisor in the jungles of Brazil, but who is kept home by his need to support his wife and his two unmarried sisters.
''The Millionairess'' by G.B. Shaw is a play about a young woman who will inherit her father's great wealth, on the condition that she finds a husband who can start with no more than 150 pounds, and turn it into half a million pounds in six months' time.
''Hedda Gabler'' is the classic tale of a powerful man's daughter who can find it in herself to respect her less-successful husband, and ''Trouble in Tahiti'' is a musical tale by Leonard Bernstein of a married couple who live lives on the surface which could rival Ward and June Cleaver, but who each harbor cravings for a life of more adventure.
The opening act at the Royal George Theatre will be ''Misalliance'' by George Bernard Shaw. It is the story of a young woman who seems to have a perfect life until a plane makes a crash landing on the lawn of her summer house, bringing a zany female aviator, a devastatingly handsome young man and a variety of problems, along with them.
''French Without Tears'' by Terrance Rattigan is a story of young British diplomats sent to a villa in France to learn the language, but whose repeated encounter with a particular young lady keeps distracting them from the track to success.
''Come Back, Little Sheba'' by William Inge is the story of a couple who were once the most popular members of their high school class, until they ''had'' to get married, and now, 20 years later, they live amid disappointment and frustration. But then, an attractive young woman comes to rent a room in their house and...
Finally, the small Studio Theatre has only one play scheduled - at least for now.
''Helen's Necklace'' by Carole Frechette is the story of a young, Western woman who is visiting a Middle Eastern City, which has recently been devastated by a war. When she can't find her pearl necklace, she sets off to find it, with the help of a mysterious taxi driver, and soon she knows more about the realities of the world than she really wanted to learn.
Members of the festival - that is, those who have donated to its survival - may order tickets for the coming season now. Tickets go on sale to the general public during the first week of December.
Tickets range in price from $24 to $110 per seat, depending on which play, which theater, and what day of the week you plan to go. If you're a student, if you're younger than 30, if you're younger than 40, or if you buy before Jan. 31, you can save money on those prices.
For details, you can phone 800-511-7429 or go by computer to www.shawfest.com. You can also use those two routes to request a printed brochure, showing which plays are performed at what time, on what day, in what theater. If you like to have someone help you make the purchase, you can make the relatively pleasant drive there and purchase them in person at the box office, which is located in the Festival Theatre.
Theatre 20 is a new theater company in Toronto, formed by 20 of Canada's most respected and successful actors. They will be beginning their first season of performances in 2012.
The public is invited to attend what they call ''A Taste of 20,'' which is a single performance in which each of their productions from the coming season will be discussed and demonstrations given by the directors, designers, and actors who will actually be working in them.
The performance will begin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23. The ticket price of $120 Canadian will bring you cocktails, substantial hors d'oeuvres, the performance, and admission to a silent auction of theater memorabilia, at the National Club, 303 Bloor St., in Toronto.
Cocktail attire is suggested.
Make a reservation at www.Theatre20.com.
We previously announced that the Stratford Festival has filmed their smash success production of Shakespeare's ''Twelfth Night,'' with a rock score, from the recently concluded season.
The filmmaker was Barry Avrich, whose previous filmings of Stratford productions of ''Caesar and Cleopatra'' and ''The Tempest'' broke attendance records at movie theaters, all over Canada.
The score us available on CD, and can be downloaded to an electronic device of your choice, through the web site CD Baby.
The showings of ''Twelfth Night'' will be exclusively at member theaters of the ''Cineplex Odeon'' chain. Dates are not certain yet, but if they send a news release, we will share it with you. Otherwise, you might want to check the ''Cineplex'' website at www.cineplex.com. The nearest member theater is in Niagara Falls, Ontario, not far from the QEW.