Blagden And The Wolf

Artist Allen Blagden settled down beside a wolf and fell in love.

That was in Greenwich, in 2008. The wolf was one of two traveling around the eastern United States on a mission: a wolf educational tour. Blagden was so smitten that he started drawing and painting the until recently endangered animals.

Now these images, in a show titled "Wolves and the Call of the Wild," are on view at the Ober Gallery in Kent.

Rocky Mountain gray wolves were first placed on the endangered species list in 1995, when few of the animals remained except in Alaska. Fifteen years later, in early March 2008, the second Bush administration removed them from the list and declared victory for protection and conservation. (How this decision was made is puzzling at best. The Department of the Interior estimated the wolf population of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming at only 1,500 when announcing victory. All three states have since allowed wolf hunting.) And Gov. Sarah Palin reintroduced wolf hunting from helicopters (talk about sporting) in Alaska.

For Blagden and the people who established Mission: Wolf, a 50-acre reserve 9,000 feet high in the southern Colorado

Rockies, these animals are misunderstood predators that help maintain ecological balance wherever they are allowed to exist in the wild. They do not attack humans, but do prey on livestock when especially hungry. It was humans who encroached on their homes, the wolf protectors say, not the other way around.

Now many people are frightened by the eyes of wolves. At least in fiction. But Blagden has written, "To look into the eyes of a wolf is to experience an unfathomable wisdom beyond any previous comprehension." And there are many pairs of eyes — knowing, vacant, warm, disinterested — in these pictures of thin, long-legged creatures. (Wolves have high, narrow chests — unlike dogs — so they can chew up 30 miles a day, running, at times, at up to 35 miles per hour.)

Blagden uses his signature water colors and graphite in most of the pieces, although there are a few oils. The graphite works are somber, studied, rather like memories of animals. The water colors seem more immediate, less ghostly. While not lovely in our conventional meaning — like show dogs and horses and cats — these animals achieve their own majesty and beauty in Blagden’s renderings.


"Wolves and the Call of the Wild" is on view at the Ober Gallery, 14 Old Barn Road, in Kent, and runs through Jan. 15.Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 860-927-5030.


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