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Audubon: A 'sweet spot' 

Long Story Short

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's collection of 197 Audubon prints is what museum director Blake Milteer calls one of the "sweet spots" in its permanent stores. I'd call that an understatement.

Sure, you can see all 435 of Audubon's preparatory watercolors at the New York Historical Society, or full folios of Birds of America at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor or the University of Pittsburgh. But for a regional museum, 197 is hardly shabby — especially since the FAC's better known for its contemporary holdings from local historical artists, and the Southwestern objects that make up the Taylor Collection. (Disclosure: Indy president Fran Zankowski is an FAC board member.)

Turns out there's nearly 200 Audubons, too? What else is in there?

Beyond their exquisite nature, these works transcend interests for their naturalist and scientific appeal. The last time the FAC displayed any of them, though, was in the 1990s.

Enter Milteer, who upon really getting to know the permanent collection, set out to find a contemporary artist who could display with these avian holdings. Years passed, until he found Denver's Kevin Sloan.

Sloan has a kind of Baroque-era-still-life-cabinet-of-curiosities niche in his lavish paintings, complete with vanitas touches of fruit and clocks. They are presented to viewers in the same fashion of the Old Masters, yet decidedly alive. As with Audubon, Sloan's works aren't just the subjects of the works — they are characters in a detailed story. We provide Cliffs Notes here.

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