Bennington Center for the Arts
Floyd Scholz, Vermont's Master Woodcarver of Birds
"Wooden" as an adjective usually describes something stiff and lifeless. But in the hands of master carver Floyd Scholz, solid Tupelo hardwood becomes something graceful, light, and spirited, as it takes on the form and feathers of a red-tailed hawk, a bald eagle, or a hermit thrush, Vermont's state bird. Scholz, of Hancock, Vermont, has earned an international reputation as a carver and painter of incredibly lifelike wild birds. From October 2 through October 17, 1999 the Bennington Center for the Arts will present a solo retrospective exhibition of Floyd Scholz's work, with more than 25 birds of prey, songbirds, tropical birds, and shore birds placed in their native settings. There will be an opening reception with the artist on Saturday, October 2, from 5-7 PM, to which the public is invited. (left: Harris Hawk)
Floyd Scholz has carved other animals, "but my true love is birds," he says. Scholz began carving in wood at the age of 10, when he began learning the art from an uncle. When his uncle's life and career were cut short by cancer, Floyd took up his tools and ambitions. "I've been carving for 21 years, and I'm more excited about the art form than ever. It's a uniquely American art -- the best bird carvers are almost all American -- but it's become popular overseas, especially in Japan." Scholz has taken his place among the best, receiving numerous awards and corporate commissions from around the world. His complex piece of Birds of the Western United States won Best of Show at the 1998 Northeast Wildlife Art Show at Stowe, Vermont; his Miniature Owl took Best of Show in 1997. (right: Floyd Scholz holding Birds of Prey)
With a college degree in Industrial Arts, Scholz has integrated teaching and wildlife education into his creative life. His studio in Hancock is also the home of the Vermont Raptor Academy, where he conducts seminars in carving and ornithology from May through October. He is the author of Birds of Prey, with more than 500 photographs of his work by Tad Merrick, as well as Carving and Painting a Red-Tailed Hawk with Floyd Scholz (with Curtis Badger). Scholz is also a founder and director of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, whose Raptor Center conducts avian research, rehabilitation of wild birds, and live demonstrations of raptors at its site in Woodstock and at traveling presentations. (left: Fragile Sovereignty, Adult Golden Eagle, 1989, Private Collection)
In a fortuitous recent trend, Scholz's specialty, the red-tailed hawk, is increasingly seen throughout Vermont. According to Raptor Center biologist and educator Brant Ryder, "red-tailed hawks are increasing, and often stay through the winter, probably because of milder winters and more food available." The peregrine falcon, another Scholz subject, is also on the rebound, since the banning of DDT -- after a hiatus of 30 years, several nesting pairs have been seen in Vermont, beginning in 1987. Recently, the peregrine was removed the endangered species list. As Ryder explains, "with the increasing prevalence of bird feeders, songbirds increase; these smaller birds are like a fast-food restaurant for the raptors (hawks, eagles, and falcons) who feed on them."
The songbirds are in evidence outside Floyd Scholz's studio -- chickadees, finches and blue jays congregate around the outdoor feeders; indoors, parakeets chirp and preen in their spacious cages. Created from a Vermont schoolhouse complete with rooftop bell, the studio sits beside the rushing Hancock branch of the White River. Scholz is currently at work on a life-sized red-tailed hawk, as well as a wild turkey, a cooper's hawk, a ferruginous hawk, and the Harris hawk of the southwestern U.S.
"I travel all over the world, researching birds -- there are probably 3 hours of travel involved for every hour of carving," Floyd notes. The October exhibition should prove to be both an education and a delight, as the Harris hawk takes its place among the exotic birds of the Amazon rainforest, the shore birds of the Eastern U.S., and the majestic eagles of North America.
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This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.
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