Easton's Waterfowl Festival isn't just about ducks and geese anymore

November 15, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

EASTON -- Morten Fadum's works of art don't have much to do with waterfowl, but they do say something about the changing nature of this town's premier annual event, the Waterfowl Festival.

The Illinois-based artist assembles larger-than-life-size sculptures of fish in dark wood and glass showcases. The sculptures, painted in patinas of green, pink, silver and brown and appearing to hang from wall hooks ready for cooking, are surrounded by tear sheets from old outdoor magazines, dusty reels and other fishing memorabilia.

"These are my impressions of what hunting and fishing used to be like in a simpler time," says Mr. Fadum, who was a fishing and big game hunting guide for more than 20 years before he moved into the booming wildlife art business.

Mr. Fadum was among 500 exhibitors here over the weekend.

The festival this year is showcasing exhibits that cover the gamut of wildlife art -- carvings of strange, colorful, undersea creatures and crooning songbirds the size of a child's palm. Paintings of bears, mountain wildernesses and waterfalls could be found among traditional depictions of geese and mallards bolting a marsh.

Organizers have broadened the festival to include decorative works and works with a strong impressionistic flair. They've done that to keep abreast of the rapid growth in artistic depictions of waterfowl and wildlife.

"The field of waterfowl art is just exploding in so many directions," said Tan Brunet, a five-time world decoy carving champion who hails from the bayous of Louisiana and has participated in the Waterfowl Festival for 19 years.

Now, his two sons, Jett and Jude, have taken up the craft and are invited to exhibit their work.

"This show survives, because there's always something fresh. That's why it's so popular," said Bill Perry, a co-founder of the festival now in its 22nd year.

Popular, indeed. By noon yesterday there were hour-long waits to get into the buildings where the most popular exhibits were on display. The town's streets had a carnival atmosphere as visitors strolled, ducking into antique shops and listening to folk artists playing outside in the crisp autumn air. Organizers were predicting 20,000 visitors to the three-day event, which ends today at 5 p.m.

While artists like Mr. Fadum don't evoke impressions of waterfowl in their work, they are lucky enough to be invited to the annual festival -- considered the premier showcase for waterfowl-related artwork in the country today -- because visitors thirst for exposure to a diverse array of wildlife artwork, said Mr. Perry.

"The thing I hear over and over again from people coming to this event is how drawn they are to it, because it offers them a chance to study the actions and instincts found in the wild that they would have no other chance to see," said Mr. Perry.

"Many of our visitors are coming out of the cities. They are so cut off in their daily lives from wildlife and yet have a yearning to see its beauty."

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