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Cindy House Preserving Nature's Splendor

Call of the Wild

Introduction by Carey Vose

When I first met Cindy years ago, we had an immediate bond after discovering that we had both been wildlife majors at the University of Maine, but in the end we both chose to pursue our careers in the art world. While I loved the biological field work (from studying the mysterious lives of muskoxen in Alaska to re-populating a puffin colony off the coast of Maine), the intensive scientific methods and statistical analyses became tiresome to me.

Carey banding an Atlantic Puffin for Maine Audubon on Eastern Egg Rock, Maine

Cindy, on the other hand, combined her two passions by illustrating a number of avian field guides starting in the late 1970s. Eventually, she felt illustration work did not allow her enough artistic freedom, so she spent the next thirty years expanding her knowledge and mastery of the pastel medium, capturing the quiet moments among the wild havens she so enjoyed exploring with her mother as a child. It is her hope that through her work, people will be inspired to help preserve and safeguard these undeveloped sanctuaries so that they might be there for future generations of both humans and feathered denizens alike.

Soaring along the Maine Coast, 2021, pastel on paper, 16 x 22 inches

Whether depicting the fields and marshes of New Hampshire, the craggy coastline of Maine, or the sandy dunes of Plum Island, Massachusetts, Cindy captures the subtle moods of a place in a transportive way. Her naturalist’s heart and artist’s eye are often first drawn to a location’s vegetation and its innate compositional elements, while also taking note of the fauna inhabiting a place, namely avian subjects, which she believes add life to each painting. She has come to know her subject matter intimately over years of close study, and has a gift for truthfully rendering the texture and color of an ecosystem in all seasons, for accurately portraying a bird’s physical traits as well as its behavior and movement, and for conveying the atmosphere of the environment.

Ice Out, 2021, pastel on paper, 16 x 22 inches

The harmonious co-existence between the landscape and the birds are vital to the success of Cindy’s paintings. She has won numerous awards for her work, including being chosen for the Master Wildlife Artist designation at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI in 2018, an honor that has been bestowed on less than forty artists since 1976.

Cindy with her husband, Eric Derleth, a wildlife biologist, at the Woodson Art Museum for her Master Wildlife Artist designation in 2018

My family and I are thrilled to introduce Cindy’s work through this retrospective exhibition of nearly fifty paintings, and in a year when Vose Galleries is celebrating our 180th anniversary in the art world. Her use of a time-honored medium and traditional methods in such innovative and beautiful ways truly fits with our mission of introducing and championing American realist artists.

Moon and Mockingbird, 2020, pastel on paper on panel, 16 x 20 inches

Cindy House

Cindy House inherited a deep appreciation for New England's landscape, flora, and bird life from her mother, a natural history teacher and published wildlife photographer. Over the past 50 years, Cindy has harnessed her notable artistic ability to memorialize the Northeast's picturesque environment and bird denizens.

"What makes Cindy’s art so compelling is the rare mix she brings: a stunning sense of composition that combines subtlety with power; masterful command of her challenging, vibrant medium; and deep knowledge of—and feeling for—the habitats and birdlife she offers us."

-Amy Montague, Director of the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon

Plovers over the Gulf, 2016, pastel on paper, 19 x 25 inches

Cindy earned her degree in wildlife biology at the University of Maine and began her career as an avian field-guide artist. She contributed to important publications including the inaugural National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, the Peterson Field Guides Series' Field Guide to Warblers, and the Reader's Digest Association's Book of North American Birds. This work required painstaking accuracy in its depictions - the pattern, length and color of feathers, the proportions of body to wing, the shape of a beak or talon, must all be true to life. Describing this period of her early career, Cindy recollects, "It was good for about ten years...I liked the challenge of designing plates, working in a museum with all the specimens...But after fifteen years, it became repetitious and didn't allow for artistic growth."

Cindy examining avian specimens at the Smithsonian
Summer Waning, 2017, pastel on paper, 20 x 21 1/2 inches
Flicker in Field, 2020, pastel on paper, 11 x 17 inches

A serendipitous outing to the National Gallery of Art in 1987 brought clarity. There she viewed William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock 1891-1902, an exhibition of his brilliant landscapes, and the experience gave her the impetus to charter a new path. Cindy reflects on this exhibition and the influence it had on the direction of her career: "I was blown away by these paintings of Shinnecock Hills...And I'd said, 'This is the kind of work I would like to do. These are the kinds of landscapes that I would like to do. And if you took out the people and...put birds in instead, I would really like to do it.'" Following this artistic epiphany, Cindy enrolled in a pastel workshop with famed artist Albert Handell and selected pastels as her chosen medium because of their unique spontaneity and her ability to pick them up or set them down as needed. Through her studies under Handell, Cindy learned how to imbue her paintings with an oil-like quality and a depth of tone.

Cindy working in her studio in New Hampshire
"I love the vibrancy and the tactile nature of pastels and how it is very kind of intimate, there is nothing in between."

-Cindy House

Soaring over a Summer Field, 2008, pastel on paper, 18 3/4 x 23 1/4 inches

Since then, Cindy has devoted herself to pastels and to representing the harmonious co-existence between the landscape and its feathered inhabitants. She notes: "For me, birds add life and movement to a painting. It's also a statement of the importance of the beauty these creatures add to our lives. How empty our lives would be without them!"

Early Morning Fog, 2020, pastel on paper, 15 x 23 inches

A testament to her success, Cindy has garnered prestigious solo exhibitions at the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon in Canton, Massachusetts and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as at a number of well-respected galleries. She has won the Prix de Pastel Award for the International Association of Pastel Societies in 2014, Master Pastelist status from the Pastel Society of America in 2017, and in 2018 she was featured as the Master Wildlife Artist at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Woodson Art Museum, the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon, The Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Bausch & Lomb, Inc, and in the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut.

Singing Meadows, 2012, pastel on paper, 16 x 22 inches

Cindy is committed to truthfully rendering the tangible qualities of the birds and their environs, yet unlike the analytical drawings of specimens of her early career, her paintings are masterworks that stir the soul and transport the viewer to the place depicted: to the stillness of the forest’s edge, where the dense morning fog feels cool on our skin and we hear the flutter of a blackbird taking flight; to the sandy beaches among the din of a perpetual rhythmic tide, watching shorebirds wade among gathered pools; and to marshlands at dusk where tall grasses dance in the wind, so soft and welcoming we almost reach out to touch them.

Clockwise from upper left corner: Signs of Spring, Lone Elm, Open Water, Path to the Headlands

A Mother's Influence

Cindy House grew up along the coast of Rhode Island's Mount Hope Bay, and she began exploring New England's abundant woodlands, meadows, and beaches at a young age with her mother, Mildred (Millie) House, a natural history teacher and published wildlife photographer. During these excursions, Cindy and her mother would take photos of the local flora and fauna they encountered and share the developed film in slide shows with their neighbors and friends. With no formal art training, Cindy holds that this experience was central to the development of her artist's eye: "It was through her eyes that I learned to see nature."

"[My mother] had a passion for the outdoors. She'd photograph flowers, insects, birds, anything, and send off the roll of film to Kodak. Weeks later, a little black-and-yellow box came in the mail...We'd put them in a carousel and the neighbors would come over for a look. These were my art classes. I learned to see through the lens of a camera."

-Cindy House

Winter Neighbors, 2014, pastel on paper, 18 1/2 x 23 inches

The influence of Millie House's careful study of nature is apparent in all of Cindy's works. Following in her mother's footsteps, Cindy pays special attention to the avian life included in her paintings. After years of close study, she has a gift for truthfully rendering a bird's physical traits, behavior, and movement. For example, in a detail of Spring Stream below, the Eastern Phoebe songbird resting on the tree branch is easily identifiable by its dark peaked head and white chest.

Hairstreak by Millie House, courtesy of Cindy House
Spring Stream, 2009, pastel on paper, 15 1/2 x 20 inches

Memorializing New England's LandscapE

Late Summer Marsh, 2020, pastel on paper, 19 3/4 x 23 3/4 inches

It is not the monumental that inspires Cindy House, instead she has dedicated her career to recording the every day landscape. In the words of fellow Birds in Art Master Artist Larry Barth: "She doesn’t paint Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. She paints everyday scenes people walk by all the time. She lifts up a simple scene and makes it spectacular. And she does it quietly, which makes it all the more impressive to me. It’s easy to paint Niagara Falls and make it spectacular. It’s much harder to paint a puddle and make it spectacular."

Sheltering from the Wind, 2021, pastel on paper on panel, 18 x 24 inches
"I find that I can only paint the things that I know and I love."

-Cindy House

Evening Light, 2013, pastel on paper, 18 x 23 inches

Although Cindy has captured views around the world, it is the allure of New England's landscape and its quiet beauty that she cannot ignore. She finds the familiar wildlife management areas in her home state of New Hampshire particularly inspiring, along with Parker River National Wildlife Refuge at Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts and Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Cindy sketching on Martha's Vineyard
Evening Dunes (view of Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard), 2016, pastel on paper, 16 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches
"It's...the undiscovered beauty in these small areas, in these small places that you love. And I think that's New England... It's a comfort to see these [landscapes] and to know that this is what has been a part of my life for so long and that it brings joy to me and I think to the people that live here."

-Cindy House

Cindy's views are often on preserved lands, protected from development, and it is her hope that they remain so for future generations to experience. We share in that hope and anticipate that her exquisite paintings will bring a renewed appreciation for New England's wilderness and for the feathered denizens who depend on it.

Shorebirds over Autumn Marsh, 2021, pastel on paper, 16 x 22 inches
'Cindy House: Preserving Nature's Splendor' will be viewable online & in the gallery October 9th - November 15th, 2021.

Vose Galleries

238 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116 - (617) 536-6176 info@vosegalleries.com www.vosegalleries.com

Digital Catalog Design: Cecilia R. Christman

Writing: Carey L. Vose, Courtney S. Kopplin & Cecilia R. Christman

Photography & Videography: Gabriel J. Chevalier

© 2021 Vose Galleries, LLC. Rights reserved. The right to copy, photograph or reproduce the works of art identified herein is reserved by Cindy House.