Mari Kloeppel is drawn to paint through sheer passion for her subjects-animals. The species matters less to her than the personal connection she shares with the animal. For Kloeppel, it is beauty and familiarity that resonate most. Most she knows well, having lived with them for years at her rural home in Elkhorn, north of the Monterey Peninsula. Others she has encountered through animal rescues or friends. Her work epitomizes an emotional connection versus an anatomical documentation.
While Kloeppel’s complex time-consuming technique is certainly traditional, her approach to painting animals is not. That her animals are beautiful is nothing new to art history, but these animals are also heroic. These are portraits. As in her depictions of domesticated animals, Kloeppel’s “wild” creatures retain distinct identities, although they do not exactly embody nature untamed. In these, there is often a subtle melancholy, for these creatures do not exist in a world that is entirely their own. As in her domestic depictions of horses, dogs, and rabbits, which may sport brands, collars, and other evidence of man’s presence, the accoutrements that the artist sometimes includes in her depictions of birds make clear that these no longer symbolize a purely wild, avian freedom, but instead are embodiments of a desire for freedom that can no longer be. She finds beauty and intelligence in them all and within them discovers her muse.
Kloeppel has also dedicated her life to rescuing wildlife and domestic animals with local organizations and also preserving habitat for the native animals of Central Coastal California. Working with volunteers from her community she advocates for protection of the watershed of Elkhorn Slough and Northern Monterey County. Working with local decision-makers, Kloeppel advocates for the adoption of strong policies against inappropriate development that would diminish the natural environment needed to support the wildlife of the area.
The environmental protection organization that she and her husband founded over a decade ago and continue to co-chair is Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough. Saveourslouhg.org