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Several artists featured at event
When 73-year-old Chet Wilcox was a boy, his mother always knew where he had been from the trail of wood shavings he left behind.
When he was 8, the Yreka native won a buck knife in a ball toss at a Fourth of July celebration in Ashland, Ore., and immediately started carving out small animals and boats from whatever wood he could find.
"I've been carving ever since," said Wilcox, one of several artists featured Saturday at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge's 75th anniversary celebration.
Wilcox has hunted all his life and loves the outdoors, so it seemed natural to turn his wood carving talent into creating life-like pieces of art, particularly migratory birds who call the Sacramento Valley home.
"I do everything from humming birds to full size swans," said Wilcox, who teaches private decoy and bird carving classes, and operates a wood carving supply company in Citrus Heights.
For many painters, carvers and photographers, art and wildlife go hand in hand, especially to those dedicated to nature and habitat conservation.
Chico fine artist Kateryna Elson unveiled her painting Saturday, entitled "Resting Place," which was selected for the Wildlife Refuge's 75th anniversary special print, which is limited to 100.
"I'm so honored," said Elson, who autographed prints at the refuge's visitor center.
Inspired by many trips with her family to the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge south of Willows, Elson chose to depict a wintery scene of waterfowl, with Snow Mountain in the background.
"I'm always excited to begin working on a new painting because it thrills me to see my vision come to life," she said.
Elson was born in Tomsk, Russia to a family of musicians and artists.
When Elson was 11, she entered the "We can live in peace" art competition held throughout the US and Soviet Union.
She placed second in the USSR, and she represented her country with four other winners on a tour of the US.
She later studied at the Vyzhnysta College of Applied Arts in the Ukraine, before immigrating to the US in 1999.
She is now working on a series of outdoor scenes that depict waterfowl and their habitat.
"The whole process of creating a piece fills me with a great satisfaction and fulfillment," Elson said. "My soul is in each and every one of my paintings, so when my work touches someone's heart, I am honored."
Wood carver Donald Hovie, 75, of Sacramento, feels the same about his work.
Even though his carvings command a price of $250 to $500 per bird, carvers are seldom compensated for the many hours that go into a piece of work, he said.
"You have to love doing it," Hovie said.
Hovie and Wilcox have been friends and hunting partners for years and have competed against each other in state and national duck carving shows.
Carving competitions are held all over the world, and have gained popularity in places as far away as Japan, Wilcox said.
Wilcox's favorite birds to carve are pin tails and shore birds.
Hovie's favorites are valley quail and green-winged teals.
"But I would do a full sized ostrich if the price was right," Hovie joked.
When it comes to carving, they each have a different style.
Wilcox carves a Styrofoam mock up of a piece before he takes his knife to the wood.
Hovie starts from scratch.
"Of course, I may start out with a mallard and end up with a teal," joked Hovie.
Hovie and Wilcox are members of the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association, a group of carvers seeking to promote and preserve the North American tradition of hand-carved wood decoys.
The Decoy Association joins the California Water Fowl Association and the US Fish and Wildlife Service each winter in hosting the annual Flyway Journeys Wildlife Art Camp at the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge.
Additional art featured at Saturday's celebration included winning entries in the Jr. Duck Stamp competition, and the work of bird artist and refuge biologist Jennifer Isola, who helped children create their own works of art.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.