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Calistoga artist crusades for endangered species

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Sheltering in place during the cornavirus pandemic is a burden for many, but Calistoga painter and sculptor Anne Pentland has made the most of it.

“Luckily as a working visual artist, I am never at a loss to fill my days with creative work at my home studio,” said Pentland, who has served since 2007 as assistant director of the Nimbus Arts community center in St. Helena.

Long fascinated with the crusade to save rare animals around the world, Pentland was particularly moved by the death of the world’s last male white rhinoceros two years ago in Kenya.

“There are two females left, but that is the end of the species,” she said. “A couple of years ago I had created a rhinoceros sculpture for a Day of the Dead altar, and starting in February just before the shelter order, I decided to turn it into a mosaic sculpture.”

That meant wrapping the chicken-wire form of the rhino with sheetrock joint tape, coating with thin-set cement and then applying a layer of glass tiles. It was a long and laborious process, but her effort paid off.

The finished, hollow sculpture weighs 100 pounds, stands three feet tall and glitters, ready for the next art show or for sale when the quarantine ends, a lasting reminder of what the natural world has lost.

“The theme of my work is endangered and threatened species,” Pentland explained. “That is what sculpt and paint.”

Her painting “Sunset for a Species,” which shows the ghostly image of a rhinoceros set against an African landscape, won best of show in the traditional category earlier this month at the fifth annual Animal Kingdom Art Exhibition at Fusion Art in Palm Springs, now on display online at fusionartps.com

“This work also was published as the cover art for the book “Rhino in the Room” by Jill Hedgecock in 2018,” Pentland said.

The artist’s passion for protecting wildlife isn’t limited to rhinos. She created her Madonna series, which includes a lemur and a lion. Her painting “Iguana Madonna” fetched a winning bid of $20,000 at her arts center’s annual “Nimbash” fundraising auction last year, attended by more than 350 people. The event is usually held every May.

“Of course, with the pandemic, everything is shut down this year,” Pentland said.

While she works away at home, the pandemic also brought a couple of welcome surprises, including news about one favorite animal she thought she’d lost for good.

First, the board of directors at Nimbus Arts applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to support its staff, which is in turn continuing to offer some services.

“Thanks to our board of directors for working to keep us afloat, we have made art kits to go for families in the community,” Pentland said.

But for the artist, not all recent news has been about the present coronavirus crisis.

“An amazing thing just happened during this pandemic shut-down. One day while working in my studio on the mosaic sculpture, I received a call that our cat Nigel, lost during the evacuation after the 2017 Tubbs fire, had been found,” she said. The cat had disappeared from Pentland’s South Lake Tahoe second home after she fled from the fire.

“So he has been keeping me company in my studio as I resuscitate him back to health. He seems happy to be home, and we are so happy -- and amazed -- to have him back after two and a half years,” she said.

Pentland’s interest in animals embraces all creatures great and small, as human encroachment on wildlife habitats continues around the globe. She is especially enamored of the species native to Africa, and cherished a trip in 2016 to Botswana, where she took photos of wild animals roaming expansive preserves. The pictures serve as reference for creating her artwork.

“I am concerned about these creatures we share the planet with,” she said. “We’re responsible for losing them while we take over their earth.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

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