Work with Montana birds inspires art professor’s exhibit

Some proceeds from artwork sales to benefit raptor rehab center

By Mike McKibbin

Like the birds she helps to rehabilitate each summer, Cynthia Zyzda has migrated.

The Colorado Mountain College associate professor of art is on a year’s leave from the college’s campus in Steamboat Springs to devote even more time to the activity that spurs her artistic endeavors. And Zyzda hopes that connection comes through in an upcoming exhibit at the CMC Gallery in Glenwood Springs, entitled “Migration.”

In her artist statement for the exhibit, Zyzda wrote, “Migration is about transformation, wandering and finding. Anyone who has ever watched birds understands the profoundness of momentary joy and wonder. This exhibit is made up of artifacts of thinking, making and roving. In these pieces are the fragments of what I have been pondering, what I have been experiencing and the habitats in which I have wandered.”

Zyzda is a native of the bluffs of Sioux City, Iowa. Her parents raised her with a deep respect and curiosity of the natural world, including compassion towards animals. Since the third grade, Zyzda knew art and animals would play a major role in her life.

“We had a career day, where we all had to pick something we were interested in,” she recalled. “It was really a no-brainer. I just knew I wanted to be an artist.”

Zyzda went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, and her Master of Fine Arts at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. For the past nine years she has taught art to college students, the last four of those years as an associate professor of visual art and humanities at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.

“I came to Colorado out of my love for nature, and for Colorado Mountain College,” she said.

Each summer since 2005, Zyzda has helped rehabilitate injured raptors at the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman, Mont. A portion of proceeds from the sales of her exhibit pieces will help benefit the center.

Each of the 20-25 mixed-media creations in Zyzda’s exhibit takes between 20 to 60 hours of work, she said. She starts with recycled newspaper pulp and layers the surface with varnish-like substances, then draws on top of that surface.

“Making art is a way of reflecting on life,” she said. “I think globally about daily events and places in the world and I end up with things I think of and experience.”

As with most artists, Zyzda doesn’t look for a specific reaction from admirers of her art.

“I’d rather have it be broad so people bring their own ideas,” she said. “Migration is really all about change, anyway, and that’s more interesting than anything specific I’m thinking.”