Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity

Endangered Species presents the work of sixty artists from around the world who convey both the wonder and fragility of life on Earth through the exploration of five separate themes.

Nick Brandt; Line of Rangers Holding the Tusks of Elephants Killed at the Hands of Man, Amboseli, from the book Across the Ravaged Land, 2011; Archival pigment print, 44 x 78 in. Courtesy of the artist.

September 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Curated by Barbara Matilsky, Whatcom Museum Curator of Art

Endangered Species presents the work of sixty artists from around the world who convey both the wonder and fragility of life on Earth through five interconnected themes. Spanning two hundred years, the exhibition reflects the vital relationship between art and natural science. It also highlights art’s pivotal contribution to the legacy of nature conservation, which is now threatened. The artist’s message is more important than ever.

A calendar of tours, lectures, films, and other related programming is available here

For more information, see the bibliographytimeline, and list of artists in this exhibition. A complete illustrated exhibition catalogue is available for purchase at the Museum Store.

Martin Johnson Heade; Cattleya Orchid, Two Hummingbirds and a Beetle, c.1875–1890; Oil on canvas, 24 x 31.5 x 4 in. framed. Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2010.67.

first theme

Celebrating Biodiversity’s beauty and Complexity:

from landscapes to microscopic imagery

We focus on artists who illuminate biodiversity’s stunning variety on its most grand and intimate scales. By examining the shared practices that inspire artists and natural scientists, such as exploration, observation, and documentation, visitors can learn about biodiversity and its importance.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.


On the Origin of Species, 1859

Charles Knight; Wooly Mammoth and Hunter, 1909; Oil on canvas, 27.5 x 39.5 in. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History, New York.

second theme


interpreting natural extinction

We introduce the concept of extinction—the complete loss of an animal or plant species. When natural scientists first discovered fossils of early life, nineteenth-century artists presented convincing visions of animals roaming primeval habitats in best-selling natural history books and panoramic murals commissioned by museums. The exhibition showcases examples of these illustrated books and paintings. The work of scientists and artists who interpret naturally occurring extinction helps us contemplate the consequences of the current unraveling of biodiversity.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

Why has not anyone seen that fossils alone gave birth to a theory about the formation of the earth, that without them, no one would have ever dreamed that
there were successive epochs in the formation of the globe.


Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals on the Surface of the Earth, 1825

Harri Kallio; Les Gris Gris #3, Mauritius, from The Dodo and Mauritius Island, Imaginary Encounters, 2004; Archival inkjet print, 29.5 x 36 in. Courtesy of the artist.

third theme


extinction by human actions

We explore how artists transform scientific documentation about early human-induced extinctions of species such as the dodo, the great auk, and the passenger pigeon, among others, into stirring portraits and still life paintings. Their artworks reflect meticulous research and observational analysis of specimens from natural history museum collections. By reviving past life in sometimes startling ways, artists imprint their memory on our consciousness and spark awareness about the contemporary extinction crisis.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

How can you expect the birds to sing when the groves are cut down?


Life in the Woods, 1854

George Catlin; Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie, 1832–1833; Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 in. Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

fourth theme


plants and animals on the edge of survival

We examine threatened ecosystems and the global decline of biodiversity. The artworks call attention to just a few of the 10,000 endangered and critically endangered species classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Artists heighten public awareness about the current condition of life and environmental distress through their artworks, and they offer a unique form of communication that taps into the core of human culture—beauty and emotion.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life.
It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being, And we therefore yield to our neighbors, Even our animal neighbors, The same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.

Attributed to SITTING BULL (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake), Hunkpapa Lakota

Jason deCaires Taylor; Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), 2011; Video (photographic detail). Courtesy of the artist.

fifth theme


destruction or preservation of biodiversity

Contemporary artists not only portray animal and plant species at risk, they also interpret the human actions that lead to their precarious status: habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, population growth, and over-hunting and fishing. Artists are at the forefront of working with scientists, museums, policy makers, and citizens to envision new and creative strategies for enhancing life and restoring the essential bond between people and the natural world.

Additional images related to this theme are available here.

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress at great speed, but at its end lies disaster.

The other fork of the road, the one “less traveled by” offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth. The choice, after all, is ours to make.


Silent Spring, 1962

Major funding for the exhibition and catalogue has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Norcliffe Foundation with additional support from the City of Bellingham,  Whatcom Museum Foundation and Advocates, Alexandre Gallery, and Heritage Bank. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Showcase

September 1 - 30, 2018; Old City Hall

This showcase highlights a variety of artwork from artists participating in the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour this coming October, and displays a wide range of artistic mediums. The Whatcom Artist Studio Tour takes place October 6–7 and 13–14, 2018, and offers the public an opportunity to visit artists’ working studios and gain insight into the creative process, work-life, and the work environment of local artists. The self-guided tour also provides an opportunity for people to purchase art directly from artists. Visit www.studiotour.net for more information about this year’s Studio Tour.


Richard Diebenkorn; Untitled, c.1988-92; Gouache, pasted paper, graphite, and crayon on paper, 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. (24.1 x 16.2 cm). Catalogue raisonné no. 4695 © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

May 19 – August 19, 2018; Lightcatcher building

This exhibition features fifty-two of Richard Diebenkorn’s (1922–1993) drawings and paintings on paper, which reveal the working hand and mind of one of America’s most respected and admired twentieth century artists. Created while living and teaching in different locations—Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sausalito, Berkeley, Ocean Park, and Healdsburg, California—these works represent a painter of profound lyricism and curiosity.

Diebenkorn developed a reputation for ethereal, large-scale abstractions. Although his early work is associated with Abstract Expressionism and the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, his vision was truly unique. The later Ocean Park series culminated in his receiving worldwide acclaim. Diebenkorn’s rich, intimate works have inspired generations of artists, as well as art lovers.

This national touring exhibition is organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, and the City of Bellingham.

PARTY > Members See it First! Member reception, Friday, May 18, 5 – 7pm at the Lightcatcher

DOCENT TOURS > Offered on select dates based on volunteer availability at 1:30pm at the Lightcatcher. Check our online calendar for specific dates.

CURATOR’S LECTURE > Chester Arnold presents, “Richard Diebenkorn: A Life in Art,” Saturday, June 23, 2pm at Old City Hall.




May 19 – August 19, 2018; Lightcatcher

This exhibition, organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in partnership with the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, chronicles the history of Crow’s Shadow over the past twenty-five years as it developed into an important native printmaking atelier in Pendleton, Oregon. Founded by Oregon painter and printmaker James Lavadour (Walla Walla), who envisioned a traditional arts studio focused on printmaking, Crow’s Shadow is the only professional printmaking studio located on a reservation community in the United States.

The exhibition presents more than 70 prints drawn from the Crow’s Shadow Print Archive and focuses on themes of Abstraction, Landscape, Media and Process, Portraiture, and Word and Image. In addition to the prints on display, the exhibition is accompanied by text panels, chat panels, and a video that showcases Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Art. Both Native and non-Native artists who have worked at Crow’s Shadow are featured, including Rick Bartow (Wiyot), Pat Boas (US), Joe Feddersen (Colville Confederated Tribes), Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne), Brenda Mallory (Cherokee), Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke), and Marie Watt (Seneca), among others.

Support for this exhibition has been provided by Mary Summerfield & Mike O’Neal, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, and the City of Bellingham.

PARTY > Members See it First! Member reception, Friday, May 18, 5 – 7pm at the Lightcatcher.

DOCENT TOURS > Offered on select dates based on volunteer availability at 1:30pm at the Lightcatcher. Check our online calendar for specific dates.



May 16 – August 26, 2018; Old City Hall

Curated by Jeff Jewell, Photo Archives Historian

Salmon can labels have long been collected for their variety and beauty, a decorative prize for the avid recycler. The labels reproduced in this exhibit all originated with Pacific American Fisheries (PAF), headquartered in Fairhaven at the foot of Harris Avenue. PAF, which was founded in 1899 and operated until 1965, was once the world’s largest canning company. See historic photos, label reproductions, and prints at this new exhibit on the first floor of Old City Hall, then head upstairs to the Maritime History Gallery to learn more about Bellingham’s maritime heritage and industry.


Lidded basket, Inuit. Gift of Dr. Gay Wickersham Davis. Whatcom Museum #2008.68.1.

February 3 – June 10, 2018; Old City Hall

Curated by Rebecca Hutchins, Curator of Collections

Hidden in the Bundle features a selection of baskets from the Whatcom Museum’s extensive Native American and First Nations collection. Representing different eras and cultures, the baskets showcase some unique, innovative, and even playful elements of design or decoration. The viewer can explore these creative and practical adaptations while pondering the role of individual expression in the world of basket-making.



Coiled feather basket; Central California (possibly Yokuts), c. 1890. Sumac, devil’s claw, wool, quail feathers, 6 x 8 x 8 in. Lent by Lois Russell. Courtesy of the University of Missouri.

February 3 – May 6, 2018; Lightcatcher

Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America chronicles a history of American basketry from its origins in Native American, immigrant, and slave communities to its presence within the contemporary fine art world. Baskets convey meaning through the artists’ selection of materials; the techniques they use; and the colors, designs, patterns, and textures they employ.

Historical baskets were rooted in local landscapes and shaped by cultural traditions. The rise of the industrial revolution and mass production at the end of the nineteenth century led basket makers to create works for new audiences and markets, including tourists, collectors and fine art museums. Today the story continues. Some contemporary artists seek to maintain and revive traditions practiced for centuries. Others combine age-old techniques with nontraditional materials to generate cultural commentary. Still others challenge viewers’ expectations by experimenting with form, materials, and scale. Divided into five sections—Cultural Origins, New Basketry, Living Traditions, Basket as Vessel, and Beyond the Basket—this exhibition of approximately 95 objects has two primary goals: to model how to look at, talk about, and analyze baskets aesthetically, critically and historically; and to contextualize American basketry within art and craft history specifically and American culture generally.

This exhibition is generously sponsored in part by the National Basketry Organization, University of Missouri, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, and numerous private donors. Additional support is provided by the Northwest Basket Weavers Vi Phillips Guild, the City of Bellingham, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, and the Whatcom Museum Foundation.

PARTY > Members see it first at the member reception, Friday, February 2, 5 – 7 PM at the Lightcatcher building

DOCENT TOURS (In conjunction with Jeweled Objects of Desire) > Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 1:30pm beginning February 10th.

SHOWING CONCURRENTLY AT OLD CITY HALL > Gathered Together: A Show of Work Celebrating Members of the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild and Hidden in the Bundle: A Look Inside the Whatcom Museum’s Basketry Collection.







Judy Zugish, Breathe; Willow, 22 x 8 x 5 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

February 3 – May 6, 2018; Old City Hall

View a selection of artwork at Old City Hall by members of the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild (NWBW) in an exhibition juried by Lisa Telford and Katherine Lewis, artists featured in Rooted, Revived, Reinvented. Members of NWBW will be on hand on opening day to talk about basketry and the artwork on display.

The Northwest Basket Weavers, Vi Phillips Guild began with a group of 16 people who loved to get together at Vi Phillips’ house on Whidbey Island, Washington to make baskets and share information. These weavers used reed, cedar bark and root, sweet grass, pine needles, and other natural materials to make traditional baskets. Thirty-five years later, the 180 guild members today weave both traditional and contemporary baskets. Several members are nationally known teachers and artists, who have baskets featured in Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America.

Gallery Tours > Sunday, February 11, March 11, and April 8, 1:30 PM; Knowledgeable members of the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild will be available to guide visitors through the exhibit, offering insights into the weaving materials, techniques, cultural and historical context, and how the traditional and contemporary variations on display are linked. Included with admission/Museum members free.






John Sinkankas; Quartz egg with faceted corundum. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

February 3 – May 6, 2018; Lightcatcher

This exhibition features rarely seen items from the vaults of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Each piece in this exhibit demonstrates the skill and ingenuity of various artists in transforming simple materials into striking treasures. Originally curated by Cynthia Duval, who was then Chief Curator of the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, this exhibit creates a sense of awe at the vision required to take the rough to polished, the mundane to exceptional, and the simple to complex.

Whether it is a faceted quartz crystal egg, a gold sardine can, a gold and pearl-studded corn cob, or a gold yoyo, each of these creations irresistibly attracts our attention and appeals to our imagination, encouraging us to think about why and how each piece was made. Let these rarely seen objects inspire as you explore this exhibit. Learn more about featured artist Sidney Mobell in this Smithsonian article.

Jeweled Objects of Desire is sponsored by Smith & Vallee Gallery, Mary Summerfield & Mike O’Neal, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham.

PARTY > Members see it first at our member reception, Friday, February 2, 5 – 7 PM at the Lightcatcher Building

DOCENT TOURS (In conjunction with Rooted, Revived, Reinvented) > Thursday, Saturdays, and Sundays, 1:30 PM, beginning February 10



Walter Ufer (German | American, 1876 – 1936); Evening Rays, circa 1923; Oil on canvas; 25 x 25 in. Courtesy of the Tacoma Art Museum, Haub Family Collection, Gift of Erivan and Helga Haub, 2014.6.132.

September 30, 2017 – January 7, 2018, Lightcatcher

This fall, the Whatcom Museum will feature a selection of artwork on loan from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works of Western American Art. The Haub Family Collection of Western American Art is unrivaled in its scope in the Pacific Northwest. The collection includes prominent nineteenth-century artists who influenced our views of Native Americans, mountain men, cowboys, and pristine American landscapes, including Henry Inman, Paul Kane, John Mix Stanley, and Charles M. Russell.

From the twentieth century, the exhibition includes artists who brought modern art movements west and who explored western history and American identity, such as E. Martin Hennings, Maynard Dixon, Robert Henri, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The collection also includes many artists who are active and working today. Contemporary Native American artists John Nieto and Kevin Red Star take a fresh approach and portray Native American culture in a modern light, and pop artist Bill Schenck uses humor and satire to challenge long-held assumptions about the American West.

The artworks in the exhibition examine ideas of American identity over time, delve into storytelling and myth-making, and explore the vast American landscape. Visitors will see how concepts of the West, both real and imagined, have continually changed and evolved, and still influence people today. Learn more about this collection from the Tacoma Art Museum.

Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum was organized by Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington. This exhibition is supported by Mary Summerfield & Mike O’Neal, Patti & Frank Imhof, Sue Lobland, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham.