Carol DeMoss loves being surrounded by nature and wild things, and that’s okay with her if it comes inside sometimes.
“Obviously I have holes in my screens,” said the artist and painter whose free “Nature Inspired” art exhibit runs through Oct. 1 at Puente Art Studio, 741 E. Elizabeth St. runs in Brownsville.
“I’ve got a Mexican tree frog that lives on the front porch on the window sill above the door,” said Demos, who lives in Bayview. “I call him my watch frog. He protects me.”
Her murals and other art can be seen at the Gladys Porter Zoo, where she first dipped her brush in paint in the 1980s. Demos has a mural to complete inside the herpetarium, and she was among a group of artists who painted a large mural in the alligator pit, she said.
“They called me to do the plants,” Demos said. “That’s how I got hooked. Since then I’ve been painting there. I do everything I can. There are pictures of me in zoos. I’m everywhere.”
Her work can also be found on interpretive/educational panels in the zoo’s education department as well as ceramic sponsor tiles, she said. Demos’ work can also be seen in other places, including Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island, where she recently completed work.
“They’re putting some (alligator snapping turtles) in there and it’s an outdoor facility,” she said. “They built a big outdoor tank. They needed a swamp wall, and I love swamps, so I did that. That’s just over. I still don’t know if they have turtles. They are going to be two. They are branching out and there are more turtles than sea turtles. “
Demos has also created murals for eco-lodges in Belize and painted the “Back Porch” mural at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.
“It was funny, because I’d go there at night to work, and there was a swallow that was a worm,” she recalled. “He would come and shake the trailer at night, do all kinds of things. There was a snake sitting in the corner. It was fun. It was a treat. I definitely enjoy my job.”
Demos, president of the Wildlife Conservation and Education Society of South Texas, has more than 20 of his works on display at the Puente Art Studio, among them renderings of the long-tailed mongoose, a relative of otters and badgers that live on the Rio Grande. Valley, though very few people have laid eyes on one.
“This is a beautiful little creature that we’ve got here,” Demos said. “Nobody ever sees it. It’s very secretive. It’s one of the most beautiful animals on earth. And here they are, the long-tailed weasel.
Demos lived for years at Camp Lula Sams, a former Girl Scout camp on 86 undeveloped acres in Brownsville, now known as Camp Rio at historic Lula Sams and operated by IDEA Public Schools. Wildlife encounters, including some indoors, were a regular part of camp life, although Deimos did not see a long-tailed weasel there.
“Believe it or not, I saw them in Bayview,” she said. “We had one on our back porch when we moved in. I knew it was the place for me. We even have a bobcat.”
Demos’s exhibit, which opened Aug. 13, has many examples of valley wildlife other than the shy mongoose, as well as “a lot of rainforest paintings,” she said.
“I’ve got a Rio Grande turkey in watercolor, but probably 80 percent is acrylic,” Demos said. “I was painting for an hour before the show.”
Her hope is that visitors to “Nature Inspired” will come away with a greater appreciation for the wild things in the Rio Grande Valley right under our noses, she said.
“The goal is to bring attention to the wildlife treasures in our own backyards,” Demos said.
‘Nature Inspired’ Exhibition by Carol Demos
Where: Puente Art Studio, 741 E. Elizabeth St., Brownsville
When: Until October 1. Monday-Friday 10am-1pm Saturday 5pm-8pm Closed Sunday