Thursday, September 7, 2006
Under the Stars big success
By SUE WATSON
The art of John James Audubon was celebrated at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center Thursday with a candlelight dinner, Celtic and bluegrass music, tours of the Davis House and a special presentation about the naturalist’s historic bird art.
Alan Gehret, curator of collections for the Audubon Museum at Audubon Park in Henderson, Ky, provided a detailed insight into Audubon’s travels, observations, journals and drawings during the Audubon Under the Stars event.
“Audubon would have reveled to see this,” Gehret said with a sweep of the arms, referring to the beautiful Strawberry Plains. “The name Audubon is synonymous with birds, but the legacy he’s left us goes much further than that. He painted birds and mammals.
“The work as a whole with regards to mammals stands as a tribute by itself to Audubon.”
Audubon travelled over the great waterways and observed birds and mammals during a time when there was an abundance of wildlife in the Americas and his recorded observations stand as a historic record of a time when wildlife flourished.
Since then five species of birds Audubon observed are extinct, including the ivory-billed woodpecker and the passenger pigeon, Gehret said.
Audubon’s legacy extends to his adventurous accounts of the scenes he described in detail.
“He left us a record of this nation in its wildness - a record of an America we will never see,” Gehret said. “His works are there for us to learn about and marvel at the things he recorded that took place. The things that Audubon wrote about are some things that are gone.”
As Audubon travelled he painted portraits and street signs and taught dancing to the daughters of plantation owners to pay his way so he could do what he loved best, record in paintings and words the grandeur of an unspoiled America.
From New Orleans to the falls of the Ohio River, Audubon described and portrayed the changing world he saw, Gehret said.
The great rivers became the major sites of transportation and commerce and settlers populated their banks. With that came the expansion of commerce and the westward push of the frontiersmen. The sights and sounds of the abundant life of the passenger pigeon whose migration was described like thunder and whose tribes blackened the sky during their annual migration were dulled and quieted as humans encroached on the habitats of these very large populations. They would go unnoticed by future generations save the records of Audubon which preserved the knowledge of this America. Both birds and plants are recorded in Audubon’s paintings.
In 1914 the last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo, Gehret said.
The original works of John James Audubon are exhibited in the New York Historic Society Museum. About 90 complete sets of Audubon’s elephant folio size book, “The Birds in America” have survived. The museum in Henderson, Ky, holds the largest collection of Audubon’s work in the world.
The 2006 Hummingbird Migration Celebration takes place this weekend, September 8, 9, and 10, at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. The event is one of the largest Audubon-sponsored nature festivals in the country and coincides with the peak southward migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird.
For more on the seventh annual event, festival tickets and celebration events, please visit http://www.msaudubon.org or call the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, at 662-252-1155. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children (plus $2 per vehicle parking). Admission for commercial vans is $50, and there is a charge of $150 for tour buses.
(662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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