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New James Museum exhibit goes where the wild things are

Bill DeYoung



"Black Jaguar" (detail), 2005, acrylic on canvas by John Seerey-Lester.

“Eyes of a Persian Leopard,” 2020, watercolor on paper by Jacquie Vaux.

The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art puts the emphasis on the second part of its name with a new exhibition opening Saturday.

Artists for Conservation: International Exhibit of Nature in Art brings together paintings and sculpture from the international organization Artists for Conservation (AFC). Sixty-three artists are represented in this juried traveling exhibit, which comes to St. Petersburg from Vancouver, Canada.

AFC has a network of more than 500 nature and wildlife artists spanning five continents and 27 countries, “so you’re going to see a range of perspectives, of styles, of animals from all over the world,” points out Curator of Art Emily Kapes. “And the artists all have a singular focus – creating awareness around conservation efforts.”

“Black Out,” 2008 acrylic on board by John Seerey-Lester.

More than that, the extraordinary animal portraits on view in Artists for Conservation: International Exhibit of Nature depict creatures in their natural habitats. Many are endangered or threatened, many are not, but the overall impression is one of great natural beauty and strength.

Exclusive to this particular iteration of the AFC show are 20 lifelike paintings by noted British wildlife artist John Seerey-Lester (1945-2020), from the private collection of museum founders Tom and Mary James, and from Seerey-Lester’s widow Suzie.

“Manatee Escape” (with jack crevalle, Atlantic tarpon), 2019, acrylic on canvas by Guy Harvey.

“Tom and Mary first saw his work more than two decades ago, and they were just enamored by it,” Kapes explains. “And over the years, they became friends with John and Suzie, who’s also an artist. It was really a special relationship that they developed. So it was tough losing John last year.”

Suzie Seerey-Lester also contributed her husband’s elaborate sketchbooks and notes from his around-the-world travels. They’re on display in a glass museum case.

A longtime member of AFC, John Seerey-Lester was an award-winning artist whose work hangs not only in the White House, but in notable museums and galleries the world over.

“I wanted to pay tribute to him, to really show some of his artistic legacy and honor his career,” Kapes says. “He had more than four decades as a wildlife painter.”

Artists for Conservation: International Exhibit of Nature in Art runs March 13-May 23. Details and museum admission info here.

James Museum Curator of Art Emily Kapes with a work by John Seerey-Lester.







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