The Legacy of Mel Garbark

When Mel Garbark passed away last year there were 90 completed works of art remaining in his studio. Thanks to his daughter Gale Dillon, the representative for his estate, these will be offered for sale through Mayfield’s Icehouse Gallery in a special exhibit from May 5 through June 3. These works vary in size from small to large and are priced from asd little as $125 to $3,200. 

The Icehouse will have the opportunity to pay tribute to this internationally-recognized wildlife artist at a reception to open the exhibit that will be held from 6 until 8 pm on Friday, May 5.

Icehouse director, Ric Watson, is very excited about the exhibit. "Mel Garbark had a successful career in the graphic arts. When he retired to his wildlife painting, he reserved time to help amateur artists throughout our area," Watson told me. "He was kind and patient as an art instructor and he had a large following at many of our region's local art guilds. Having his estate sale exhibit allows us to offer the works remaining in his studio to an audience that truly appreciates his paintings, and also allows us to raise funds to keep our guild operating so that other artists like Mel can continue to teach and share their skills with our members."

His Facebook page has many images of his beautiful paintings. The Gallery is also setting up a page on their website, to display the most significant of Mel’s works. The gallery is located at 120 North 8th Street, one block north of Broadway and the Courthouse Square in Mayfield. Hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Call the gallery at 270.247.6971 for more information.

Mel Garbark

Mel Garbark’s entire life was focused on the arts. From coloring books as a small child, Barbark honed his skills. He took classes and had private tutoring as an adolescent, and then embarked on a professional career in advertising art as an adult.

Although he did much recreational painting, it wasn’t until recuperating from back surgery in 1981 that he started painting in earnest. After his first trip to Africa in 1983, the painting turned to wildlife and that interest never wavered.

Mel considered himself to be a naturalist and conservationist and never painted anything he hadn’t experienced personally. His works reflect a natural concern for the ecology, preservation and future of the wildlife and landscapes he portrayed. Mel attended the school of the Art Institute in Chicago Illinois and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He also studied with Robert Bateman, Alan Hunt, John Seerey-Lester and others.

His Artwork from 1992, 1993 and 1994 may be found in the Permanent Collection of the International Wildlife Museum in Tuscon, Arizona. His commissions included African Wildlife Sculpture Designs, Lenox Collections 1990; Christmas Bird Print, Kemper Securities for four years; Everon Securities 1999; and First Union Securities.

Mel was a member of the National and International Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Conservation International, National Parks Conservation Association and the Paducah Area Painters Alliance.

Exhibitions included:

  • Bateman Selects, Nicholaysen Art Museum, Casper, WY 1986
  • Ultima Thule Retrospective, Black Swan Gallery, Seattle, WA 1989
  • Top 100 Artists for the Parks competition, Jackson Hole, WY 1991 and 1999; and Ultima’s Yellowstone Retrospective, Yellowstone National Park 1992
  • Wildlife: The Artists View, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI 1993
  • Birds in Art Exhibit Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau WI 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999
  • Kentucky National Wildlife Art Exhibit 6 different times.

Awards included:  

  • Award of Merit 1989 and Best of Show Award of Excellence 1990, Wildlife Art Walk, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO
  • The Berillo Award, Mountains and Meadows Conservation Fine Arts Festival, Meadow Vista CA 1990
  • Artist of the Year, Safari Club International, Chicago Chapter 1993
  • Best North American Animal, Best International Animal and Best Bird Awards, October West Wildlife and Western Art Show, Burbank CA 1993
  • Winner Florida Panther Show Poster Contest, October-West Wildlife and Western Art Show, 1995
  • Best of Show, Woman’s Club of Paducah Art Show 1998, 2001 and 2003