Cliff Hollestelle retrospective exhibit opens Dec. 1 at NU State Museum

Released on 11/22/2006, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 1, 2006, through Mar. 31, 2007

WHERE: University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall), 14th and U Streets

Lincoln, Neb., November 22nd, 2006 —
Cliff Hollestelle with Canada geese group
Cliff Hollestelle with Canada geese group

Fans of wood carving and wildlife art in general, and of Lincoln artist Cliff Hollestelle in particular, are in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat starting Dec. 1 when the exhibit "Cliff Hollestelle: A Retrospective" opens at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

The exhibit in the museum's Cooper Gallery on the third floor of Morrill Hall, 14th and U streets on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City Campus, will include approximately 100 pieces of Hollestelle's work, most from the last 20 years. Because the individual pieces come from the private collections of more than 50 owners in a five-state area, the exhibit will provide a one-time chance to see the works in the same room. The objects will be returned to their owners after the show ends its four-month run March 31.

"It's sort of like seeing my life pass before my eyes," Hollestelle said of seeing the pieces together for the first time while the museum's Joel Nielsen and Ron Pike prepared the exhibit. "It's interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to go back and see them, and we'll probably never see them all together again. They look as nice to me now as they did when I created them and I hope people will enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed creating them."

The exhibit consists mostly of carvings of waterfowl and other game birds, but also raptors and one macaw. Most works are of individual birds, but there are family groups of loons and Canada geese that Hollestelle said he's particularly proud of. There are also delicately carved feathers of eagles and pheasants, and examples of bronze sculptures that Hollestelle has began to work on in recent years, including one of dancing sandhill cranes. The artist also included one of his earliest works, a chalk drawing of deer that he created as a fourth grader at Omaha's Central Park Grade School.

Hollestelle said that for about the last 25 years he has carved his birds from tupelo, a type of gum wood that is found in the southeastern United States. For paint, he said it's acrylics 95 percent of the time, and the rest is oil.

"Creating the piece and sculpting it out of wood is very enjoyable," Hollestelle said. "But it's really nice to sit down and take my time with the painting. And when I paint, I will paint the bird probably eight or nine times. It's very enjoyable, and I don't end up with wood chips all over my body."

Hollestelle said his knowledge of birds comes from his own research in the field and in libraries, and from the walking ornithological encyclopedia that is Paul Johnsgard, emeritus professor of biological sciences at UNL. He models his birds from photographs, and said he is fortunate to have great resources in Lincoln and Nebraska with access to the work of such prominent wildlife photographers as Jon Farrar, Michael Forsberg and Joel Sartore.

"Cliff Hollestelle has long been an important partner for Morrill Hall exhibits," said Priscilla Grew, director of the NU State Museum. "Our regular visitors know his finely detailed bird carvings in our permanent galleries and renovated dioramas -- they are both beautiful and scientifically accurate for museum presentation. Cliff studies each species carefully to make his art as true to life as possible.

"This retrospective is a unique opportunity for old and new visitors to the Morrill Hall to enjoy the great variety of sculptures and carvings that Cliff has made during his career -- a truly remarkable expression of his love of wildlife and the natural world."

The University of Nebraska State Museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children (5-18 years old); children under 4 are free. Family admission (up to two adults with children) is $10. Parking is available next to the museum. More information is available online at

The link below is to a color JPEG image of Cliff Hollestelle and his carving of a Canada goose with four goslings.

CONTACT: Priscilla Grew, Director, University of Nebraska State Museum, (402) 472-3779