Art for Endangered Animals

By Joanne A Calitri   |   December 13, 2022
Artists Caroline Thompson and Nancy Taliaferro with their Eye Am Art exhibit at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery

The Thomas Reynolds Gallery is generously hosting a wall for the art of two local oil painters on a mission to raise awareness of endangered animals and factory farmed animals. The exhibit is titled “EYE AM ART” and is on view now through December 31. The oil painters are longtime painter, illustrator, and teacher Nancy Taliaferro and renowned screenwriter Caroline Thompson

Taliaferro was born in Baltimore and comes from a family of painters, studying at the Schuler School of Fine Art, the Maryland Institute of Art, and receiving her BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art. Her work is both commissioned and in private collections, and she is represented by Davis Gallery in Austin, Texas. 

Thompson wrote Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, The Secret Garden, City of Ember, and The Addams Family, and was the first woman to receive the Austin Film Festival’s Distinguished Screenwriter Award in 2011. Her husband is film producer Steve Nicolaides. She transitioned to oil painting and is taking classes from Taliaferro.

They both took time for a quick interview at the gallery opening on Saturday, December 3. Thompson shared, “I was desperate for an oil painting teacher and found her on the internet and she is the best teacher of anything I’ve ever had. We both found out we love animals and being 60s flower children thought to use classical art to help raise awareness of endangered species and factory farmed animals, instead of protest art. Our eye concept came from the lover’s eye jewelry, as depicted in the movie Dangerous Liaison. Since the eyes express the emotion, we focused on painting the eyes of animals to reach out to people, art x beauty. It’s our project that we’d also like to work with local schools on. A woman at the National Gallery of Art D.C. saw our paintings and said she would love to talk about it with the Smithsonian, and we are talking about doing NFTs with a friend of mine. The World Wildlife Fund is giving us their top 20 endangered animals, and from there we are going to ask people to vote for five on our website that we will paint.”

Taliaferro added, “In addition to paintings, we have a website, an app, a Wordle, educational games, interactive eye of the week, and merch. We’ve partnered with the local Wildlife Care Network, and had virtual time-based shows in London, NYC, and L.A. Our frames are made by woodworker William Smith III in Rhode Island, and the panel we paint on is made by Santa Barbara Art Panels. Because we are inspired by broaches, we decided on a small oval scale for each eye painting. The frames are decorated with gold leaf and gold paint to give it a jewel-like quality. We selected the animals from hundreds of images of animals that had the right expression. We just started and our project is to continue to raise awareness through our art. We are working with award winning U.K. illustrator and graphic designer Liubov Edwards, a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design.”

A review of the actual paintings shows 47 small-scale oval works in gilded antique style brown painted frames. The animal eyes are done in intricate detail using classical portrait format with the frames being the darkened edges, similar to 17th-18th century art. The artists use what I call a Rembrandt portrait technique with both prosaic realism and expressionism to cause interpretive emotion from a single eye versus having both eyes of the animal. Many who came to the opening spent time guessing which animal the eye belonged to, some of which are Iberian lynx, wild African ass, northern gray whale, and an owl. Check out the website and guess the weekly animal Wordle of the Week via the QR code found there.  



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