Stephen Quinn

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for February, 2014

Stephen Quinn sees his work as an artist, and the work of every wildlife artist, as a means to reconnect us to nature and the myriad creatures that share the planet with us. His art serves as a portal to transport us to a larger world of living things that we have a critical responsibility and accountability for. A personal expression of his own life-long preoccupation and obsession with wonder and mystery of the living natural world around him.

Quinn feels the current popularity of wildlife art reflects our own species' fascination with and longing for the wild, and the profound realization that, as living creatures, we all share far more similarities than differences will all living things and have an obligation to be aware and actively participate in the needs and natural cycles that all life on the planet depend on. He tries to capture his own sense of wonder in his work with the hope of sharing it with others. To this end, Quinn spends endless amounts of time outdoors observing and sketching directly from nature, so as to capture, directly, what he sees and experiences and how he feels about these. Quinn hopes, through his work, to nurture meaningful relationships with nature in others who view it and to use the proceeds from any sale of his work to support worthy wildlife conservation causes.

After having the great privilege of a long and fulfilling art career with the American Museum of Natural History, contributing to exhibitions that focus on science, the environment, conservation, and cultural understanding, Quinn now is dedicating his energy to his personal passion - creating art to evoke care and concern, as well as inspire action, for the protection of threatened wildlife and ecosystems worldwide while raising funds for its support. As part of his mission, Steve, after years of working under the discipline and meeting the scientific demands of museum curators, now wants to explore his own unique way of “seeing” things in his art. Disturbed by the current “Wildlife Art” genre’s dependence on digital photography from reference and duplication, Quinn’s goal is to paint and sculpt directly from nature or from memory so as to generate what, he feels, is, truly, his our personal and subjective expression of what he sees, feels and has experienced in nature over the years. This art, he hopes, will capture his own unique experiences and individual way of expressing them, even if they may sacrifice the minute details or impersonal documentation of photographic reference that characterizes a large percentage of contemporary “wildlife art”. With this philosophy and practice, Quinn hopes to become a pioneer and leader in advancing nature art away from it’s historical association with illustration and the commercial print and glice marketing mills that have encouraged mediocrity and stagnation. Quinn hopes to initiate and promote nature art will serve a greater purpose and better provide the critical message and goals of conversation that today’s world needs, as exemplified by the Hudson River School of the late 19th and early 20th.

Stephen was a recipient of an AFC Flag expedition fellowship that saw him travel to the Africa following in the footsteps of the great American artist/taxidermist and museum collector Carl Akeley. Quinn’s expedition, supported by AFC, the American Museum of Natural History, The Explorers Club, The Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Project, The Houston Zoo, and the University of California at Davis, climbed up into the Virunga Volcanoe Range within the Democratic Republic of Congo to find the site of Akeley’s famed Mountain Gorilla diorama, relocate his grave site on Mount Mekino where he died, and celebrate his successful effort in establishing Africa’s first national park in Africa. During his stay up in the Virungas, Steve did a plein air sketch documenting the environmental changes that have occurred at the diorama site since Akeley visited in 1926. Quinn is actively planning other ways of using museum dioramas as documents of habitat loss, climate change, or environmental success stories.

As a member of the AFC Board of Directors, he is currently working on series field trips (for members in the NY metro area) to such inspirational places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Associate Curator Kevin Avery will guide AFC members on a tour that will feature the inspiring history of the Hudson River School, it's role in evoking a reverence for nature, promoting it's appreciation and advocating for it's preservation during a time of great threat. If successful and meaningful for members, Quinn plans to initiate more programs for members in and around the New York area.

Locally, Steve and his wife, Linda, recently purchased the house next door to them in Ridgefield Park in New Jersey then promptly tore it down to create an “urban nature sanctuary” on the lot. They will install a small stream and pond, add a mini-bog, plant native bushes, and turn the 40-foot-by-100-foot property into an urban biodiversity hotspot. They will welcome local community groups, educating a generation about the wonder and diversity of wildlife around them — wildlife that survives and flourishes even in densely populated areas, and how important these small backyard “sanctuaries” are as resting places for migrating birds and butterflies that must navigate over the vast concrete and asphalt deserts that we, as humans, have created with our towns and cities. These tiny oasis’ may, in the future, make all the difference between survival and extinction for these tiny travelers who have used the skies above our homes as highways for millions of years prior to our arriving and altering the landscape.

The Quinns are part of a quiet movement of environmentally conscious homeowners across the country who take steps to ensure their yard is more than a patch of green lawn — that their little piece of nature serves as a vital oasis for wildlife amid the sprawling asphalt of suburbia. The Quinns may be among the extreme wing of environmental-minded homeowners, but their project has drawn praise from neighbors and local politicians.

Naturalist and artist Stephen C. Quinn joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History in 1974, and apprenticed under such diorama-art masters as Raymond deLucia, Robert Kane, and David J. Schwendeman. His first assignment was as a foreground artist for the Wood Stork diorama in the Hall of North American Birds, which started his life-long fascination and dedication to this unique art form

He served his first 20 years as an artist, honing his skills and understanding of the various diorama arts. Then, as Senior Project Manager for Exhibitions at the Museum, he oversaw all aspects of new diorama creation—including field expeditions, exhibit fabrication, and installation—as well as diorama conservation and restoration.

Now after retiring from the American Museum of Natural History in March 2012, he continues with the Museum with the emeritus title of Exhibition Associate, consulting and working on diorama-related projects. Some of Quinn's artistic contributions to the Museum's exhibitions over the years are: the Archeopteryx flight mural, the early tetrapod Acanthostega mural, the miocene horse diorama background painting, the eocene Arctic diorama painting, and the Emperor Penguin diorama, depicting a breeding colony at Cape Crozier in Antarctica.

He was a project leader for the 1995 field expedition to the Central African Republic, which resulted in the rain forest diorama in the Museum's Hall of Biodiversity and a project manager for the 2003 renovation of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Quinn provided the illustrations for the 1994 book "What Color is That Dinosaur" by Lowell Dingus, and was co-author of "Inside the Dzanga-Sangha Rain Forest" (1998) and author of "Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History" (2006).

He has been a member of the Society of Animal Artists since 1978, a signature member of Artists for Conservation since its founding, and is a member of the Salmagundi Club, one of the oldest art organizations in America. He has been elected a Fellow of the Explorers Club, and has been voted a Professional Member of the historic Boone and Crockett Club, 

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

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