Marla Brenner first traveled to Wausau's Leigh Yawkey Woodson Arts Museum to see "Birds in Art" in 1989. This year, the prestigious show of aviary art includes a piece by Brenner herself.
Brenner, who teaches graphic design and illustration at Madison Area Technical College, and two others from Madison are among the 112 artists from 11 countries featured in this year's "Birds in Art," a juried collection that runs through Nov. 13.
Madison artist Clarence Cameron's 10-inch-high sculpture "My Pink Hibou," carved from translucent pink Chinese soapstone, also was selected for the 2011 exhibition, as well as "Turkey Promenade," a five-color reduction woodblock print by S.V. Medaris of Mount Horeb.
"This is a prestigious exhibit, and I'm oh so happy to be in it," said Brenner, whose 36-by-36-inch oil painting of sandhill cranes titled "Sentries" was selected by a panel of judges that included Audubon picture editor Martha Hill.
Of the 112 artists in the show this year, only seven are from Wisconsin. While the ratio of Madison-area artists is not extraordinary, "it's a tribute to (the artists') superb work submitting in an intensely competitive environment," museum director Kathy Foley said.
Brenner first discovered "Birds in Art" through a friend in 1989 "who told me it was so much more than birds," she said. "At the time I had no interest in painting birds - I just wanted to paint. I saw my first exhibit that year and have been to every one since because the art is so varied and wonderful."
She began to paint birds seriously last year after deciding to stay close to her home on Cherokee Marsh on Madison's North Side because of her parents' health, she said.
"I decided to paint my ‘neighborhood.' The marsh neighborhood is full of bird life. I really started to notice them as more than a fleeting presence. I fell for their design, their colors, their antics, their variety, and their problem-solving. It was then that I was really motivated to incorporate them into my work."
"My Pink Hibou" is Cameron's ninth piece over the years to be selected for the annual "Birds in Art" show.
"For any bird artist, every time is special at ‘Birds in Art,'" he said. "Artists are treated so well by the museum staff, and we make long-lasting friendships with artists from all over the world and become familiar with their work."
This is the third year that Medaris has had a piece in "Birds in Art."
Medaris raises turkeys (along with chickens, dogs, cats, peafowl and pigs) on her farm and captures their winsome way in her artworks.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. This is the third year that Medaris has had a piece in "Birds in Art," not the second.]