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‘Duck, Duck Shoot!’: Genesee Country Village explores 19th-century waterfowling and conservation

Jun 2, 2022

Special to The Daily News
May 26, 2022

MUMFORD – An expansive new exhibition in the John L. Wehle Gallery at Genesee Country Village and Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd., is focused on the history of waterfowling in 19th-century America.

Waterfowling, another term for shooting waterfowl, is the practice of hunting ducks, geese, or other waterfowl for food and sport.

“Duck, Duck, Shoot! The Story of American Waterbirds” spans from sustenance practices to over-hunting, and the birth of environmental conservation efforts to preserve waterfowl populations.

Visitors will dive into the connections between sport hunting and 19th-century American identities while exploring works of art, sculpture, decoy technology, historic clothing, and more. The exhibit will run for the 2022 and 2023 seasons in the John L. Wehle Gallery at GCV&M, and was made possible with support from Ducks Unlimited.

“Duck, Duck, Shoot!” guides visitors through the history of waterfowling in America – from Indigenous technology and sustenance hunting, to the introduction of firearms in the 19th century which decimated waterfowl populations, to conservation efforts of the 20th century and the longevity of waterfowling as a sustainable pastime. Wildlife artists of the 19th century fed the growing appetite for works of art capturing the likenesses of waterfowl both commonplace and exotic, and moved forward the burgeoning American sentiment to protect and preserve dwindling, or in some cases, near extinct, species of birds.

“We are eager to shed light on modern waterfowling as a marriage between sport and conservation, both of water bird habitats and of the birds themselves,” says curator Brandon Brooks.

The exhibit features works of oil, acrylic, and watercolor, colored lithographs and sculpture, natural specimens, firearms and hunting technologies, duck and waterbird decoys, culinary implements, hunting attire for both men and women, L.C. Smith shotguns and the artwork of famed Master L.C. Smith Engraver, Albert E. Kraus. Key to the narrative are artifacts such as J.J. Audubon lithographs, Currier & Ives prints of American sportsman life, a mammoth punt gun, and a display of Federal Duck Stamps.

“Waterfowling is really a nexus for artists, sportspersons, ornithologists, and activists. The sustainable waterfowling we thankfully have today is really the work of these groups of people coming together in the earlier 20th century, particularly the waterfowlers themselves.” said Brooks.

Established by Museum founder John L. Wehle, the collection in the John L. Wehle Gallery unites Wehle’s passions for art with interests in hunting, sports, wildlife, and conservation. Spanning the 17th to 20th centuries, paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures document the changing taste and styles of sporting and wildlife art. The Gallery traces the history of equine, canine, racing, driving, angling, hunting, and shooting art as well as wildlife from diverse areas of the United States.

In addition to “Duck, Duck, Shoot!” the exhibit “Consuming Desires: The Great American Wedding” is also still on view in the John L. Wehle Gallery, and explores at the evolution of marriage and weddings in 19th-century America.

Attendees to the Museum’s Antiques Show Preview Party on May 28 will have access to a tour of the new exhibit. Tickets for the event are available online at https://tinyurl.com/yp2kpr89.

Throughout the Museum’s regular season, which runs into October, access to the Gallery is included with general Museum admission. Visitors will also find a series of curator-led talks and programs in the Gallery throughout the 2022 season.

For more information about upcoming events and talks, go to https://www.gcv.org/events/.

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