If you study a photo or painting by Gary Nickels, there's a good chance it's the only one of its kind.

It's part of the artistic mindset of Nickels, a former Beatrice art teacher and artist who has an exhibit of wildlife paintings and photography currently displayed at the Carnegie Building.

"When I sell these, I make it like art because I only make one copy and if people buy that, that'll be the only one hanging up," said Nickels, who lives in Grand Island. "...I only want art to be one of a kind."

The exhibit, which opened last week and runs until the end of July, features photographs depicting a variety of wildlife - from elks and bald eagles, to cranes and dragonflies.

Nickels also painted scenes of wildlife for the exhibit, such as a turkey and even one of his own dog with a bird of prey lodged in its vicious bite. 

The exhibit is the result of many miles and man hours for Nickels, who used a Nikon camera with a 600mm lens to capture intimate scenes from nature.

"I love to be outdoors and I love photography; I love art," said Nickels. "To me, this is like art."

Nickels graduated from Beatrice Senior High in 1958 and later taught art at the school from 1962-1976. Nickels coincided his current exhibit with the Class of 1958's reunion this past weekend at the Carnegie Building.

After his stint in Beatrice, Nickels went on to work for the National Endowment for the Arts and later as an art coordinator at Grand Island Public Schools, where he oversaw the design of a new art department at Grand Island Senior High.

In addition to making his paintings one-of-a-kind art, Nickels does his own canvas printing and stretches the canvas onto special boards for hanging. 

But photography and painting are only the tip of the artistic iceberg for Nickels.

As somewhat a jack of all trades, Nickels also makes jewelry and has, in the past, blown glass and crafted pottery.

"All forms of art I like and most of it I've taught," he said.

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