Looking for 527
by Susanne Belcher & Christine Baleshta

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. ISBN 978-1-467-91103-0.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 08/04/2013

Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Science

Looking for 527 by Susanne Belcher, artist, and Christine Baleshta, writer, is a creative collaboration that is part art gallery catalog, part personal journal interspersed with snippets from their correspondences. It is an emotion-evoking tribute to the wolf and the people whose efforts are ongoing to preserve their lives.

The authors met online and forged a unique partnership that was inspired by the story of a female wolf of Yellowstone National Park, "527." Through their work, 527 became much more than a number.

"Juxtapositions" could easily be a subtitle to the book, for science and art are brought together here. Science is represented by the number assigned to the wolf in the study and used to track this wild spirit of nature. In contrast to the clinical view of the wolf as a number in a research project, Belcher's expressive art depicts the spirit of both wolf and seeker. Perhaps one of the most chilling contrasts is the enigmatic front cover artwork with the haunting back cover of the radio collar. And there is also the juxtaposition of journal excerpts, a traditional form of writing, and emails.

The artist and writer have yet to meet each other in person, but met through a website, and this book was a result of their common passion for the Yellowstone wolves. Christine Baleshta began following the wolves in 1998, after the first Canadian wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Subsequent to that release, over the years, the wolves became pawns of political maneuvering. During this time, no good came to these wild creatures. Baleshta eventually sponsored 527, and when the wolf was killed in the first legal wolf hunt in 2009, she received 527's radio collar.

Susanne Belcher's art work, much of it originally done with transparent mixed media collage, is so rich in detail that it is worthy of being reproduced on a dozen full pages. It creates the perfect mood for the story, at once somber and hopeful. I wanted to see larger versions of these beautiful collages, feeling that some intricate aspects of the art may have been lost in the downsized versions.

Through this book, inspired and composed in memory of 527 and the Cottonwood wolf pack, the authors invite us to learn about the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Yellowstone Park Foundation. If you are interested in the plight of wolves, this book is one you'll want to read. If you simply appreciate the efforts and collaborations of scientists and citizens for the conservation of wildlife, you will find much to admire here, too.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Susanne Belcher is an award-winning artist. She considers herself a painter, but for this book expressed herself in mixed media of paint with collage, photography, printmaking, transparencies and writing. Visit her website.

Christine Baleshta's love of the outdoors and wildlife developed into her writing about nature. Her essay and journal excerpts have appeared in Yellowstone Wolf Tracker, Nature Writing: Inspiration for Readers and Writers ("The Yellowstone Series"), and Yellowstone Experiences.

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