Large, colorful paintings of legendary animals by Walton Ford are currently on view in Chelsea in a show titled Watercolors. For this show, Ford focuses on connections between human culture and the natural world, drawing upon inspiration from folklore and historical studies.
One work called Rhyndacus features a 10-foot tall snake and a flock of colorful birds heading toward its wide-open mouth. Rhyndacus is based on Aelian’s De Natura Animalium that tells the story of a snake believed to magically lure prey by opening its jaw. Another painting called The Tigress, illustrates a large tiger surrounded by giant bubbles coming from the grass. She raises one of her paws as she stares at the bubbles with excitement and wonder.
A piece titled The Graf Zeppelin tells the story of Susie, the first female gorilla who came to New York in 1929. Ford portrays Susie sitting comfortably in a first-class cabin of a German ship, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
A similar painting titled Windsor, May 1829, is based on a gorilla known as “Happy Jerry” who lived in Edward Cross’s menagerie in London in the early 1800s. Ford illustrates “Happy Jerry” sitting at King George IV’s dining table smoking a long, thin, clay pipe. The image is based on a scene from Heads and Tails, an 1870 book by Adam White.
At The Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Ave., through Jun. 21. The gallery is open Tues.—Sat. from 10 a.m.—6 p.m.