Great Dismal Swamp inspires wild art exhibit

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Walk on the Wild Side, a new exhibit featuring artwork inspired by the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, opens at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts April 13.

The free opening reception offers the chance to meet the artists and enjoy O’Connor Brewing Co.’s “The Great Dismal Black IPA” from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, April 13. 

At the close of Walk on the Wild Side exhibit Thursday May 11, there will be a free presentation at 6 p.m. about the Great Dismal Swamp National wildlife by wildlife biologist Susan Stanley.

Email newsletter signup

The new exhibit includes artwork in a variety of mediums, while featuring two Suffolk artists Edward Higinbotham and Wayne Martin.

Higinbotham is a wood carver specializing in wooden and cork decoys and sculptures. He is most interested in capturing the local wildlife in Virginia’s Tidewater area. 

Higinbotham has been working as a wood carver for more than 20 years after a boating accident caused him severe vision loss and greatly diminished dexterity in his right hand. As a result, woodworking and decoy making were his form of physical therapy. 

His sculptures are primarily functional to be working decoys for hunters; however, he has perfected his craft so that people want his pieces to not only join them on a hunting trip, but also for art in their homes.

“I usually get asked by a friend or family member if a particular animal is possible for me to make for them, and the answer is always yes,” Higinbotham said. “I take my time deciding on posing and colors, and then I don’t stop working and fine-tuning until I am satisfied with my results. That could be days or months, but my work is only finished when I decide it is.” 

Martin is a watercolorist who began his craft in 1988. A retired waterman, he said he was encouraged to pursue art by friend Bobby Clontz. His love of nature can be seen in his work as he creates them by photographic memory. 

Martin also is a member of the Virginia Master Naturalist Organization, where he volunteers to provide education and outreach about natural resources and natural areas within the community. A true love of nature can be seen in his paintings of birds relevant to the Great Dismal Swamp.

“My love of art is in nature and anything around me that involves nature.” Martin said. 

Walk on The Wild Side’s juror is carver Jim Gordon, a retired director of court services in Virginia’s Fifth Judicial District. Since retiring, he has spent a good deal of time pursuing his hobby in woodcarving and being outdoors. His interest in woodcarving stemmed from his appreciation of all things art and his roots in the duck decoy world. 

Exhibiting artists have the opportunity to win first, second and third place awards, as well as the People’s Choice award, which are presented during the April 13 opening reception.

The Walk on The Wild Side exhibit, inspired by the Great Dismal Swamp, runs from April 13 to May 11. Admission is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday at the Suffolk Center.

For more information on this exhibition, visit, call 757-923-0003 or visit the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, 110 West Finney Ave.