Personalities, thoughts and sometimes even a sense of humor shine through in Mari Kloeppel’s animal portraits. Ten of the artist’s works will be on display in her first museum exhibition in Animals in the Drawing Room: Portraits by Mari Kloeppel, on view at the Crocker Art Museum
from February 6 through May 31, 2009.
Inspired by the color, detail and draftsmanship of the old masters, such as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer and Johannes Vermeer, Kloeppel’s technique is certainly traditional, but her approach to painting animals is not. These are portraits. For each painting she studies her subjects thoroughly, looking for just the right pose and expression that captures their distinct identities.
Horses are the most prominent subjects in Kloeppel’s menagerie. She also paints dogs, rabbits, chickens and cattle, along with less domesticated creatures such as ravens, pelicans and falcons. The species, however, matters less than her personal connection to the animal. She knows most of her subjects, having lived with them for years at her rural home in Elkhorn, north of the Monterey Peninsula. Others she encounters through animal rescues and local environmental activism and advocacy, efforts that often inspire her to paint the wildlife she aims to protect. She finds beauty and intelligence in all of these animals, and within them discovers her muse.
Kloeppel’s commitment to art as a profession was in large part due to her horse Cobahsaan, a 1,000-pound Arab gelding that crushed her in a riding accident. Broken ribs caused her lungs to collapse, and a reaction to medication left her temporarily blind. Her reverence for animals, however, was strengthened, not deterred. During her recovery, she decided that if she were to regain her sight, she would change course and become a full-time artist. She has since done exactly that.
The Crocker Art Museum was founded in 1885 and continues as the leading art institution for the California Capital Region and Central Valley. The Museum offers a diverse spectrum of special exhibitions, events and programs to augment its collections of California, European and Asian artworks. The Crocker is located at 216 O Street in Downtown Sacramento. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 1st and 3rd Thursdays until 9 p.m. Free admission on Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. is made possible through the support of Bank of America. For more information on exhibits and events call (916) 808-7000 or visit crockerartmuseum.org.