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Wings of the Desert

Artist: Ric Nielsen

Artist Profile

Southern Dog Face Butterfly

Combining his love of nature, his fascination with winged insects and his innate gift as a commercial artist, Ric Nielsen has created a one-of-a-kind art exhibit now showing at the Ranch House Art Gallery at Agua Caliente Park.

He credits his happy and memorable childhood hiking and camping with family and his father’s creativity as an art teacher, for his appreciation of both the outdoors and art.

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Red Wing Grasshopper

A high school art teacher taught him to appreciate art of all kinds. He was particularly drawn to typography or the technique of arranging type, to make the written language most appealing for learning and recognition. He was amazed by how many different kinds of type there were and how they fit together, so Ric became a Commercial Artist.

After graduating from high school, Nielsen went on to study graphic design at the University of Arizona graduating with BA in Graphic Design. He started his commercial art career at a local advertising agency.

During late 70’s one of Ric's favorite places to visit was the local zoo. At that time, the cages were small enclosures of black chain link and the signage was unappealing! Ric believed he could improve the look of the signs and volunteered his skills. A graphic design job for the City of Tucson became available, Ric applied and got the job.

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Giant Cicada

After 31 years working for the City of Tucson as the Art Director, Nielsen retired in 2010. That retirement lasted only two days! He left the job on Friday and went to work the following Monday for Brown Mackie College Tucson as the Chair for their new Graphic Design Program.

One of the things on Ric’s bucket list was to have an art show. In January of 2015, he had his first Art Exhibit at the Agua Caliente Ranch House Art Gallery at Agua Caliente Park. Since then he has had two more at the Community Performance & Art Center, in Green Valley.

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Giant Waterbug

He sold his first piece in January of 2015, which is now hanging in a home in New Jersey. That was when he became a “Professional Fine Artist”, Ric has been hunting insects and making frames since then.

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Framed Danaus Butterfly

This April 2nd – May 4th Ric has an exhibit at the Agua Caliente Ranch House Art Gallery at Agua Caliente Park, 12325 E. Roger Rd. Gallery hours are Wed. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. A meet the artist reception will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2016, from 11am - 2 pm

Using wings of dead insects Ric finds in his backyard, walking, camping or elsewhere, plus a scanner and his graphic art flair, Nielsen has created an exhibit that uses the process of scanography and includes frames he made .

“Scanography is a new way to represent the world around us. It involves using the computer to scan objects, then using the process of capturing and manipulating patterns with those digitized images for the purpose of creating fine art,” Nielsen explained.

His unusual fascination with wings began when he was teaching a graphic design class a few years ago and found a dead bee on the classroom windowsill.

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Yellow Paper Wasp

“I thought to myself … how cool it would be to see a bee wing up close. So I pulled the wings off, scanned them and it was wonderful!

“I started to make patterns and shapes with the bee wing and then tried a cockroach wing found on the floor. I started finding insects of all kinds, some in my backyard, in the washes of desert areas and just about anywhere.”

As much as Nielsen’s keen eye for finding insects with artful wings plays into his exhibit, the frames he has chosen to accent his art maximize the wonder of his work.

The name of one insect in the exhibit is the Iron Cross Blister Beetle, and Nielsen said the beetle does indeed cause blisters on the skin. It secretes a blistering agent called cantharidin. A photograph below the framed piece shows the likeness he captured with the beetle’s red head and black and yellow body that his brother-in-law found for him.

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Queen Danaus Butterfly

“Nature has a way of putting colors together. It’s hard to match that handiwork,” he said.

Ric says, "I love the beauty of the outdoors. The colors, the patterns, and how they work in nature are amazing. I hope my art reflects this and will bring that same amazement to others".

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Milkweed Beetle

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Milkweed Beetle

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Oak Splendor Beetle

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Oak Splendor Beetle

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Praying Mantis

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Framed Praying Mantis

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Yellow Paper Wasp

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Framed Cranefly