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Art meets nature conservation

2012-10-05T13:51:00Z Art meets nature conservationBy Doug Gruse--dgruse@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
October 05, 2012 1:51 pm  • 

CAMBRIDGE -- Nature and art are birds of a feather for woodcarver Steven Sanford.

The artist, who is educated as a wildlife biologist, understands the precise anatomy of birds, but he also likes to take a little license with his handcrafted decoys and carvings.

“My birds are a mix of biology and art — and art usually has the upper hand,” said Sanford, who lives in South Cambridge. “From an aesthetic perspective, I have an artistic leaning in the way I treat them. They are not intended to be a replica of a live bird.”

Sanford’s birds are featured in “Landscapes for Landsake,” the 11th annual art exhibition to benefit the Agricultural Stewardship Association’s farmland conservation programs. The show, which features art depicting the region’s rich agricultural and natural environments, opens Saturday and runs through Monday at Maple Ridge in Coila.

The show, curated by Serena Kovalosky, also includes art by Gigi Begin, Jean Clark, Donald Cook, Ian Cretiz, Richard Dubin, Julie Duggan, Ann Fitzgibbons, Jenny Horstman, Tom Kerr, Clarence King, Karen Koziol, Adriano Manacchia, Leah McCloskey, Virginia McNeice, Annie McNeice, Bob Moylan, Cliff Oliver, Donna Orlyk, Harry Orlyk, Leslie Parke, Leslie Peck, Crickett Polis, Dawne and Dean Polis, Roland Stevens, Arlene Targan, Mark Tougias, George Van Hook, Hannie Eisma Varosy, Susan Wadsworth, Tracy Wall, Regina Wickham and Helen Young.

Sanford has seven pieces in the exhibition, including ducks, shore birds and a pileated woodpecker.

The duck carvings remind the artist of time he spent with his father hunting on Long Island.

“It’s kind of in my blood,” Sanford said.

He first started carving more than 30 years ago, right after college. Since the beginning, he has had a respect for the carvers of the past.

“I revere the tradition of decoys. It’s a unique art form in America, especially pre-World War II. I try to get some of that spirit into what I do,” he said.

Sanford carves both functional decoys and more decorative birds.

“Some of them are done purely as a work of art. A working decoy has a flat bottom with a keel and some lead in it. The birds I do for art purposes have rounded bottoms. I’m really into curves, and I like the aesthetics of that,” he said.

Each piece can take up to 10 hours to carve and another dozen hours to paint, depending on the intricacy.

“On some of them I paint the subtlety of every feather,” Sanford said.

Sanford, who first took part in the “Landscapes for Landsake” show last year, is pleased to be a part of the group exhibition and benefit.

“I’m a conservationist by training and profession, so the whole purpose is really important to me,” he said. “If I can contribute in a small way, I am very happy to do that.”

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