Leading wildlife artist Reece shows work at Ward Musem FEAST FOR EYES

June 26, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Ocean City Bureau of The Sun

Salisbury -- The next time you put a stamp on an envelope, look before you lick. If it's a duck stamp, you may have just seen the work of wildlife artist Maynard Reece.

Mr. Reece is the only person to ever win the federal duck-stamp contest five times, and his work is now on display at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

"It's his first one-man show in eight years, and we are so pleased to have it," says Sheri Olsen Kelly, the museum's public relations coordinator.

A stroll through the gallery showing Mr. Reece's pieces -- paintings and sketches -- offers a quiet respite from summer heat and noise. Mr. Reece won the federal duck-stamp contest in 1948, 1951, 1959, 1969 and 1971.

Born in Arnolds Park, Iowa, in 1920, Mr. Reece began his career as an illustrator, working for card companies, Life magazine and various sporting publications.

"His favorite subject is water. He said he throws the ducks and the wildlife in!" Mrs. Kelly said.

It's a deceptively offhand description of Mr. Reece's work, which is carefully detailed and exquisitely painted. Whether it's a flock of ducks rising from a marsh at dawn, a rainbow trout leaping almost out of the frame or pheasants under a dark sky, his work is compelling.

The exhibit offers 33 of Mr. Reece's original oil and watercolor paintings and two works in bronze. Also on display are the original drawings for his five winning federal duck stamps and the lithography stone for one of the winners.

It's easy to understand why Mr. Reece might have chosen the Ward Museum to exhibit his work. The museum is named for two Eastern Shore brothers who are credited with making duck decoy carving an art form. Lem and Steve Ward were barbers who carved the floating wooden ducks hunters call "shootin' rigs."

"They were the ones who really bridged the gap from working decoys for hunters to the decorative pieces," Mrs. Kelly said.

Some of the early carvings by the Ward brothers are among the most valuable in the world, selling for thousands of dollars, Mrs. Kelly said.

The museum has many of the Wards' ducks on display, as well as winners from the annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition, held each year in Ocean City. The museum also declares that it features the most comprehensive collection of wildlife art in the world, thanks in part to generous collectors who have lent their decoys for display.

Visitors to the museum can visit the Reece exhibit through Aug. 8. The museum also has several galleries with permanent exhibits of wooden ducks, both working and decorative, as well as two theaters where movies about waterfowl are shown.

One of the museum's galleries is a re-creation of a marsh, with duck decoys floating in water, a hunter in a boat and the sounds of wildfowl echoing through the room.

A carving demonstration is given most days by Charlie Berry, a retired coach from Salisbury who carves duck decoys. Mr. Berry works from a booth in the museum, and interested visitors can watch him work, Mrs. Kelly said.

Most of the duck decoys are housed in glass cases, but there is one large duck you can touch in the museum, Mrs. Kelly said -- put there for young visitors who want a tactile art experience.

Everywhere you look in the museum, there are ducks and wildfowl. And they're outside too -- the museum occupies a waterfront site, and a group of geese and ducks live on the water by the museum. It's an appropriate location for a museum dedicated to preserving, promoting and perpetuating wildfowl carving and art.

IF YOU GO

The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art is at 909 S. Schumaker Drive in Salisbury, about 30 minutes' drive from Ocean City. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

"The Wildlife Art of Maynard Reece" is in the Art LeMay Gallery through Aug. 8.

"Sporting Art From the Golden Age" will follow it, opening Aug. 19.

For information, call (410) 742-4988.

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