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Vermilion Flycatcher Totem by Andrew Denman <Back to Thumbnails "Totem #15: Stacked Vermilion Flycatchers"
24 x 12"
Acrylic on Cradled Board
Vermilion Flycatchers


Few birds are as instantly recognizable or as dramatic in the desert landscape as the luminous Vermilion Flycatcher. Their clear, hyper-saturated red seems almost unreal, and they are hardly difficult to observe, especially given these birds� territorial behavior. They are quite willing to make themselves seen, perching and fluttering about on a high branch or even divebombing passerby, all the while calling loudly, proclaiming �This is my Territory!� I most often see them in pairs, and the demure greys, browns, and shell pinks to tangerine oranges of the females are just as lovely as the coloration of the males, in their own understated way. It is with a wink and a nod that I alternate male and female in this totem, especially given how zealously a male Vermilion Flycatcher will guard its mate from other suitors.

The Totem series began in 2016, when a lifelong fascination with the totem poles of the American Pacific Northwest met with my new awareness of an unusual natural phenomenon, the �toteming� of Harris Hawks. For reasons ornithologists still don�t understand, these birds will sometimes stand on each other�s backs in stacks up to four birds high. Inspired by the sculptures of Tony Hochstetler and Peter Woytuk, some of whose works evoke totem poles, I had already been ruminating on how I could re-envision the Native American totem pole in a modern context within a series of paintings. The toteming of the Harris Hawks crystalized that idea, and I set to work painting stacked birds and animals. These tension-filled and gravity defying columns of familiar creatures suggest the fragile balance of ecosystems under increasing pressure from man, and they are yet another outlet for my continued obsession with pattern and repetition. The repeated juxtaposition of the same or related animals, and the re-contextualizing of those subjects outside of their natural habitats, encourage viewers to consider what they know (or think they know) about those animals in a new light.

Most importantly, these paintings explore the iconic significance with which human beings imbue wildlife. Just as Native Americans did (and still do) use characteristics of various animals as metaphors for our own human qualities and aspirations (the wiliness of a fox, wisdom of an owl, or speed of a puma for instance) so too do even the most technologically distracted among us use, recognize, and relate to animals in our logos, apps, and product branding. My totem series not only puts wildlife on a pedestal, it transforms that wildlife into the pedestal itself.

Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California �based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
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