CURRENTLY ON EXHIBIT:
Gerald Hoakstra, photography
Cynthia Wagner, collage and photography
November 4 – December 9
Opening Reception Tuesday November 12 4-5:30pm
Many Minnesotans are familiar with the great gathering of Sandhill Cranes each spring on the Platte River near Grand Island, Nebraska. Some may also have seen the large flocks that gather every October in corn fields around Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, Minnesota, or at Crex Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near Grantsburg, Wisconsin. But where do these birds spend the winters? Mostly at wetlands in the American Southwest. The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is one such place. To celebrate their return every November, the Refuge hosts a hugely popular Festival of the Cranes.
This exhibit features a small selection of photos from a trip last February to the Bosque del Apache NWR, where thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, and other waterfowl overwinter. The cranes are not the only birds that spend their winters in the Refuge. Along with them are several thousand geese—Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese—and other waterfowl, as well as numerous smaller migrants and, of course, many year-round resident birds.
For a birder and photographer like me, the Bosque del Apache is an exhilarating place to be. One can look out over a field and see hundreds of Sandhill Cranes foraging together. Or one might see several thousand Snow Geese rising en masse from the fields and swirling around against the blue sky. Meanwhile, the ponds and wetlands host Northern Pintails, Mallards, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaup, and other ducks. Driving along the gravel roads through the Refuge, one may come upon a flock of Wild Turkeys, some Common Ravens, a few Mountain Bluebirds, a White-winged Dove, a Spotted Towhee, or a flock of White-crowned Sparrows. Or one might start at seeing a Greater Roadrunner dart in front of the car.
The most beautiful time in the Refuge is at sunset. Cranes fly in from all directions to roost for the night in the shallow pools. The distinctive and haunting call of the birds fills the air as they make their ungainly descent from the sky.
Bird photography brings together two of my greatest passions—birding and photography. I enjoy spending time out in nature observing the behavior of birds, watching their interactions, and listening to their songs and calls. And I love capturing and viewing images of the world around me in photos. I have birded and photographed birds throughout the United States, in all but one of the 87 counties of Minnesota, and in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and South Africa. When I’m out birding, I always carry my camera with me. Viewing photos after a birding trip allows me to relive the experience when I am back at home in my study. And through my photos I am able to share the beauty of these creatures with others. My other photographic interests are architecture, rural scenes, and landscape photography.
Note: Several of the photos in this exhibit are digiscoped, meaning that they are taken with my camera attached to a spotting scope. This allows me to zoom in much closer than is possible with a regular lens. That is the case, for example, with the “portrait” photo of a Sandhill Crane.
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Before retiring Gerald Hoekstra was Professor of Music at St. Olaf College, where he taught music history and directed the early historical music ensembles. In his non-professional life, he a member of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union and is editor of the MOU newsletter, Minnesota Birding. His photographs frequently appear on the M.O.U. home page and are often featured in the birding app Daily Bird.
I’ve had a deep, life-long interest in art, but it wasn’t until the 90s that I “found my way in,” so to speak, and then it was thanks to a good friend who suggested, one snowy evening in Arizona (!!) that we spend some “playtime” making collages (she is a lifelong professional artist). I loved it, carried my first effort home to finish it, then started another, and then another….and never looked back.
I use magazine images almost exclusively, so far. I suppose it’s a very childish way of making art — paper, scissors, glue; kindergarten stuff, really – and yet it’s magical and thrilling to see the collage take form. I start with spreading as many pieces as possible on a large table, then step aside as some of them respond to a summons from one particular piece that calls special attention to itself. I never know where it’s going to end up. That mysterious process is irresistible to me, an example of order arising naturally out of chaos. The best thing about it is that it perpetuates in me that sense of wonder that too often gets left behind in early childhood.
Photography has also been a persistent passion; I got my first camera when I was about 9 (a classic Brownie, remember those?) and I’ve been taking pictures ever since. I’ve never had much interest in editing, and finally arrived at a comfort level of “no editing at all.” I know that most of my pictures could be improved, but I really love the personal integrity of the untouched pictures, they are so revealing – both in the choice and treatment of subject matter and perspective (what is left out as well as what is included), and in the revelation of my own shortcomings and prejudices as an artist. It seems that my exposure of film also represents a level of self-exposure that is extremely personal. In a way, isn’t that true of all art?