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Warrington Colescott
(American, b. 1921)
South of Huoma (Snowy Egret)
1994
watercolor, gouache, ink on paper, 40" x 60"
Alice B. O’Connor Purchase Fund

Warrington Colescott taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for thirty-five years, and has been known internationally since the 1960s for humorous images with an undertone of serious social commentary. His work extends into the present a centuries-old tradition of making and distributing prints as a form of social criticism. Since retiring from his teaching post in 1986, he has remained a prolific painter and printmaker. With his trademark humor, wit and biting satire. Colescott creates prints and paintings that examine the results of diverse cultures, races and classes in America as they meet, mix, and try to get along. Packed with the exaggerated visual qualities and compressed timeline of a comic strip, this monumental watercolor painting South of Huoma (Snowy Egret) relates the socio-economic saga of a real encounter between European-American entrepreneurs and the Native Huoma Indians of the American gulf states in the late 1880s. The story is also a part of Colescott’s own history, as his parents were Louisiana Creole, a mixture of French, African, Caribbean and American Indian peoples. Bird feathers were an important commodity to the burgeoning fashion centers of London, Paris and New York at the end of the 19th century. The Huoma were employed by industry suppliers to collect the feathers of snowy egrets and roseate spoonbills, two elaborately plumed birds native to the southeastern United States. As an alternative to poverty and subsistence living, the Houma readily formed a cottage industry of harvesting the birds, which greatly increased their standard of living, while nearly bringing about the extinction of these birds. Colescott pictures artist/naturalist John James Audubon in a tree with gun and paints – for he also “captured” these birds – in the name of art and science. In the midst of this jumbled timeline of events, oil derricks on the horizon allude to the continuing struggle between consumerism and the natural environment in the gulf states of America.

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