July 12 2017

Bird Paintings by Two Connecticut Artists Featured at Stillman Gallery at Lyme Academy College

OLD LYME, CONN. – July 12, 2017—An exhibit of bird paintings by two Connecticut-based painters Judy Cotton and Michael DiGiorgio will open on Thursday, July 27 in the Chauncey Stillman Gallery at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts of the University of New Haven.
A reception with the artists will take place on July 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The gallery is located at 84 Lyme Street.
The exhibit is part of Lyme Academy College’s Center for Arts Programming summer series and will be on display through Aug. 16. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Curated by Lowery Stokes Sims Ph.D., a specialist in modern and contemporary art, craft and design, and curator emerita at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the exhibit,  “Underneath Them Steady Air: Bird Paintings by Judy Cotton and Michael DiGiorgio” showcases the two artists and their appreciation of the beauty of birds.
The artists are also concerned about the fate of the species they paint as they are impacted by environmental changes and human activity. The title of the exhibition was inspired by the 1918 poem, “The Windhover,” by Gerald Manley Hopkins.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Sims will lecture on Thursday July 27 at 7 p.m. at Lyme Academy College.  Her talk, “On the Wing: A Brief Survey of Birds in Art,”will place the work of Cotton and DiGiorgio within the context of bird representations in different cultures and through the ages. The talk will demonstrate how a focus on mythology and symbolism has reflected humanity’s abiding fascination with flight, as well as the more recent ecological concerns about the fate of the original flyers.
Sims, who previously held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem before serving as the Charles Bronfman International Curator and the Mildred Ladson Chief Curator at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, has lectured and guest curated exhibitions nationally and internationally.
Illustrations created by both artists for field guides will be on view as well as on-site and studio studies that illuminate their image-making processes.
DiGiorgio, a nationally recognized artist, beautifully renders birds as they appear in nature. His birds are bright and vigorous, scratching at the earth or perched on snow-covered branches.
Since his first forays into nature illustration at age five, DiGiorgio has recorded birds around the world. His painting and drawings have appeared in numerous books and journals, including: “Breeding Bird Atlas of CT,” Audubon “Field Guide to Birds/Eastern and Western region,” Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America,  andDeborah Cramer’s “The Narrow Edge.” 
Similarly, Cotton renders her subjects from life, though her birds are not alive. She paints her birds just after death, plucked from the field or the road and brought back to her studio. These birds, recovered near her home, bear their life and death in equal measure. Cotton’s quick, sure strokes capture the newness of death—her subjects feel fresh, as if the blood is still wet. Removed from their environments and posed, Cotton’s birds are a stark contrast to DiGiorgio’s, creating a poignant before and after.
“DiGiorgio and Cotton record birds with confidence and urgency, each racing against nature to secure a moment in time,” said Todd Jokl, Lyme Academy College campus dean. “The exhibition conjures up the tension before split-second shifts of the body—anticipating a flash of wings or the set of rigor mortis. ‘“Underneath Them Steady Air: Bird Painting of Judy Cotton and Michael DiGiorgio’ is a fascinating look at varied portrayals of birds in art, equally exploring relationships between light and line as well as life and death.”
Longtime members of the community, Cotton and DiGiorgio have impacted Lyme as both artists and educators. DiGiorgio has previously delivered lectures for the Center for Arts Programming that chronicled the fascinating lives of prominent ornithological illustrators Don Eckelberry, John Audubon, and Roger Tory Peterson.
Eckelberry, one of the country’s foremost bird painters, was also a mentor to DiGiorgio. Under his tutelage, DiGiorgio learned to work from observation in nature, emphasizing the character of the bird and its relationship to the environment.
The exhibition and lecture have been made possible, in part, by a generous grant from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation. For more information about this exhibition and lecture or summer courses, workshops, and other upcoming programming, visit:
About Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts is a college of the University of New Haven.  Its mission is to educate aspiring artists through a rigorous studio curriculum rooted in figurative and representational art. The College offers a comprehensive liberal arts education essential for advanced critical and creative thought.  For more information, visit:
About the University of New Haven
Founded on the campus of Yale University in 1920, the University of New Haven is a private, co-educational institution which is comprised of five colleges that provide career-focused education grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, fine arts, business, engineering, and public safety and service. The University is a diverse and vibrant community of more than 6,800 students, including 1,800 graduate students and more than 5,000 undergraduates. Information is available at

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