[Masthead] Overcast ~ 45°F  
High: 54°F ~ Low: 43°F
Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Outdoors with 'Ding'

Monday, October 8, 2001

Iowa's legendary wildlife artist, cartoonist and satirist returns in Storm Lake show of classic work.

Outside, geese sound off as they form the familiar "flying V" in the sky over Storm Lake. And inside the art gallery, it is wilder still.

Jay "Ding" Darling delighted generations of Iowans with his prolific work, from the satirical cartoons the Pulitzer-prize winner penned for the front of the Des Moines Register to the wildlife art that won him the honor of producing the sketch for the very first Federal Duck stamp in 1934. Darling died in 1962.

There could be no better season for the work of Ding - his own contraction of Darling - to come back to life at the Witter Gallery in Storm Lake. The show features some of the best outdoor art by the pioneer environmentalist - ducks, geese, fish, even a porcupine. His art is tinged with timeless humor - the hunter with his mouth agape as all the ducks show up just as he's packing away his decoys, the crusty fishermen characters that are as familiar today as they were when he drew them in the 1930s. The show opened October 3, and is already drawing a lot of notice.

The viewer cannot help but feel "connected" to the man - these are not polished canvases or prints, but original sketches, bristling with power and energy, some with the artist's humorous notes still visible.

Jay "Ding" Darling was born in 1876 and raised in Sioux City, and was hired by the Sioux City Journal as a reporter in 1900. A few months later, his sketches started to show up in the pages. In 1906, the Register hired him as an artist, and by 1916, his witty cartoons were featured in over 130 newspapers nationwide. He also produced scores of memorable etchings and drypoints between 1925 and 1960. He was one of the first mass-media celebrities in the days before network radio and television. He traveled the world, was active in local and national politics, and was both well-read and a prolific writer of letters on countless issues.

Perhaps most importantly, he was the leading ecologist and conservationist of his generation, as the founder and first president of the National Wildlife Federation, and serving in Franklin Roosevelt's administration as head of the U.S. Biological Survey. You can feel his passion for the outdoors, as you are surrounded by the local art showing.

"The Prints of Jay "Ding" Darling will be displayed until October 31 and is being sponsored by US BanCorp Piper Jaffray's Storm Lake office. The show features 55 works of art by Darling, including the 1934 design for the first Federal Duck Stamp, complete with an original example of the now-rare stamp.

And outside, the giant Canadas wheel around in the sky far above the building; the leaves fall in the whispering wind, and a crisp feeling is in the air.

How Ding Darling would have love it.