For several years my husband and I have hosted a writer's residency from May to October/November for established writers on our property called Aspen Words Catch and Release...Read More
I am a wildflower stalker, albeit a haphazard one. My dedication falters when learning proper nomenclature. My mother started me on this path when I was a child. We hiked in the same hills where I now live --the Colorado Rockies -- and before each hike she would load the nylon hunter orange drawstring backpack with sunscreen, sandwiches ,water bottles, army surplus rain ponchos and always, always the battered, thumbed wildflower guidebook. The sandwiches would be smashed and inedible by lunchtime but we weren't allowed to complain. How could we with those views, these mountains, that meadow of flowers?
My mother taught me all the quaint names -- bread and butter, monkshood, elephant pagoda, false sunflower and Indian paintbrush. We had to stop on each hike and peer at flowers and ponder their identification. Of course she was also teaching us reverence, but I only cottoned on to this as an adult. Now it's karmic payback as my own kids suffer my abrupt roadside pullovers to snap a photo for later identification. In their minds, I think the needle of my eccentric scale is now well beyond unusual and has leaned into embarrassing.
But the bottom line is that my mother slowed me down and taught me how to look, really look and notice the ant on the stamen, or how the wind moved the leaves on a stem or how to be astonished by how many hues one blossom can capture. She developed my artists's eye as we explored the natural world. Someday I will get to thank her.
“They are all beasts of burden in a sense, ' Thoreau once remarked of animals, 'made to carry some portion of our thoughts.' Animals are the old language of the imagination; one of the ten thousand tragedies of their disappearance would be a silencing of this speech.” Rebecca Solnit
I have decided to join the drawing/painting/collage a day challenge for many reasons, not the least of which is to force my hand. And it gave me an excuse to buy a honking big sketch book that just went on sale at our local art supply vendor. I decided to commit to a year’s time and be flexible with venue. Maybe the drawing/painting/collage will be in my tanker size journal, maybe it will be in my planner, or on a cocktail napkin. But I wanted to have a theme to get me out of the gate and keep me on course.
Last month I attended a lecture on climate change given by the renowned scientist Tom Lovejoy. Among his many, many accolades, he has been crowned the godfather of biodiversity. Currently he is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University. He also works on the ground in Brazil. He was also a good friend of my mother’s, an avid conservationist, who turned me into one. Since he stayed with us, I had the opportunity to get to know him outside the context of their friendship. Tom is wry, gentle and humble, despite the fact that he occupies a very big stage in the environmental arena and wages a constant battle against ignorance and greed in his quest to save the Amazon, and with it, our earth. His visit and lecture inspired me to to research extinctions -- particularly in the last century --most of which were precipitated, or at least, enhanced by mankind’s reckless behavior. I decided to memorialize some of these fauna and flora to begin my personal challenge. I started with the Pyrenean Ibex. Celia, the last of her subspecies, died in the Iberian Peninsula in 2000. There was a brief attempt at cloning her, but this failed. You can learn more about this wild goat by clicking HERE
or pick up Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent book, The Sixth Extinction, at your bookstore.
It seems I am still doing homework. When I was in elementary school, my parents never went near my homework. They may have proofed some papers in high school, or noodled around with a math problem, but I was on my own if anything crafty surfaced.
It’s a different matter these days, and I find myself manipulated with the line: “But, Mom, you’re an artist, you can do ANYTHING.” And off my ego and I go.
The fourth grade is studying ancient Eygpt and its mythology. Our son was assigned Seth, or Set, the God of chaos, and for those of you who do not know him, this was a good match. However, Seth has both a complicated personality, and visage. He has a bright red jackal head with menacing devil eyes.
If you need a blow by blow of Egyptian mythology, our son is your source. If you want to talk for hours about anything random, bingo. If you need to know the nuances and differences between DC comics and Universal comic characters, he can take hours of your time. But building a jackal head from hell outfit? Not so much.
So I bought paper mache mix and built an armature and got to work covering it and recovering until the whole thing weighed as much as Jay Defeo’s famous painting The Rose. It took days to dry.
It cracked when our son tried it on, and I cracked with it. I had crazy glue in odd places and I had several deadlines lurking in front of me, and spending hours mastering this new sculpting material was not what I had in mind.
I skulked and whined. I behaved like a three year old. I wrote a grumpy email to his teacher. My daughter snapped me back to attention: "Mom, you need to calm down, this is fourth grade we're talking about here. FOURTH GRADE. No one cares."
And then I started over. I rebuilt the armature and used old fashioned newspaper strips and methyl cellulose and came up with this.
It was fun, campy(our son added the blood smears on the teeth) and best of all, he was delighted and aced his presentation.
I hope I get an 'A,' but I'm nervous because one of the front teeth fell off......