Visitors to the Carroll County Arts Council Gallery this month will agree -- the place looks like a zoo.
Since Feb. 4, an elephant, alligator and armadillo have been sharing rather close quarters with a beaver, bear and several egrets. All are the creations of folk artist Gary White.
"Most people, when they walk in the woods, they see trees. I see critters," said Mr. White, whose exhibit of rustic wood sculptures is on display through Feb. 24 at the gallery, 15 E. Main St. in Westminster.
A carpenter by trade, Mr. White, 39, began carving wooden sculptures seven years ago. His primary tools are a chain saw, electric grinder and rasp. His works range from figures of Indians and mountain men to totem poles and masks.
But it is the whimsical painted animals that attract the most attention.
A large seal in the exhibit is actually a twisted tree trunk the artist found in the woods near his father's house in Finksburg.
Mr. White worked with the trunk's natural shape, carving out a head, adding eyes and some black paint.
Cedar and pine logs are used in many of his creations, as well as other, rather unusual materials.
"I use anything I can get my hands on," said Mr. White, who incorporates old table legs, fur from discarded coats and pieces of pipe in his sculptures.
He found that nails make great whiskers, as a lion and several cats in the exhibit reveal.
Old shutter slats he had around the house were cleaned, painted and used as fins on a green-and-blue swordfish, also featured in the exhibit.
Mr. White collects many of his materials at auctions. The wood comes from a local tree trimmer.
Before the exhibit, several of the sculptures had already been sold. Prices range from $20 to $250.
A large zebra and bear are the highest priced items at $250 each. For $20, a folk art enthusiast can take home a skunk or one of eight hanging fish.
The gallery has a price list featuring each of the 94 sculptures in the exhibit.
Mr. White, who began making sculptures as a hobby, never expected it to evolve into a full-time career. But in March, he left his carpentry job at a Westminster remodeling company to devote himself to his art.
Mr. White's one-of-a-kind sculptures have won fans in Baltimore, Hanover, Pa., and Beverly Hills, Calif., where folk art stores have responded to a growing demand for his work.
Betty Branson, who co-owns an antiques store/flower shop in Baltimore, is a longtime admirer of Mr. White's work.
Mrs. Branson met him about five years ago at a flea market and bought some of his early pieces. Since then, she has sold at least 100 of his sculptures at her store, Gallery Elizabeth.
"He is an excellent artist and has done lovely things for us," Mrs. Branson said.
Every summer she holds a two-day sale devoted to Mr. White's work. She said she sells every piece and takes orders for more.
Mrs. Branson said Mr. White is a real "woodsman" who has a knack for finding animal forms in natural settings.
A graduate of Westminster High School, Mr. White has had no formal art training, but does read about folk art in magazines.
He lives in Westminster with his wife, Cheri, and their two children, Heather, 18, and Lucas, 17.
He estimates he has sold more than 2,000 pieces over the past seven years. Many are commissioned works for friends and relatives.
"People ask me to do [carvings] of their pets. I match it as close as I can, but I tell them it's going to be whimsical.
"I try to get a little character out of them. When the character comes out, I just stop."
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.