SaveArtSpace Animal Instinct put a painting from my Wolf Crossing series on a billboard in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! Thank you Justin Aversano and Travis Rix, SAS founders and ArtDog,NYC and Mother Pigeon, curators. It was great meeting other artists in support of animals at the opening show at One Art Space in NYC. And this picture is from a fun day checking out the billboard with Debra, Harriet and Rei.
I’ve been making art featuring wolves and their connectedness to humans for decades. For me, and many others, wolves symbolize the wilderness, freedom and a connection to nature that we all need and at some level, always crave. This connection keeps us in harmony with the earth, with other animals and our very selves.
But now I am painting alligators, animals that humans do not usually feel connected to. The main response they stir up is fear, and I was drawn to explore that reaction and how it fits into ancient archetypes that influence us. Here are some of my thoughts on alligators and two of my new gator paintings.
Swimming Near Gators
Alligators address our centers of fear. We cannot look to these animals for tenderness as we sometimes can with other fierce animals, such as wolves. Ancient people faced their fears by worshiping the fiercest animals, making them part of them in some way. By living with fearsome images, we pull up our warrior selves, as sometimes we must. I am exploring fear and its ancient roots in these paintings from my ongoing series that I call Swimming Near Gators. Alligators have been on the earth over 200 million years, outliving dinosaurs by 65 million years. They were here to greet some of the first humans when they arrived a mere 200 thousand years ago. The fierce uncaring faces of alligators have been scaring people for a long time.
They fit perfectly with the idea of an archetype, a universal image that is deeply imbedded in the collective unconscious.
Over the years, my partner, Debra, has posed for wolf spirits, Egyptian animal goddesses, a Madonna that gives birth to butterflies, and sometimes just as herself. All of these paintings and more will be in Muse, an art show at the LGBTQ Center, 300 Wall Street, Kingston NY. The opening reception is April 1, 2017, from 4 to 6pm and the public is invited.
Below are some of the works in Muse and a picture that Debra took of me with our friends, Erik and Vince as we installed the show.
As snow continued to fall late into Tuesday evening I grew excited, guessing there would be enough coverage in the morning to put a long desired adventure into play. The next day was sunny, no wind, around 45 degrees. Perfect. Debra and I threw our cross country skis in the car and in less than an hour pulled into the parking lot at Art Omi, the international arts center in Ghent, NY.
Is there any other place in the world where you can ski on sixty acres that are the setting for extraordinary large scale sculptures by world class artists? We skied down rolling hills, in and out of wooded areas, stopping to view works that were outlined against sparkling snow or merged with dark branches. It was a wonderful dream-like day, and there was no charge for anything, including an art show at the visitors center that we took in before we left. Art Omi was founded by individuals who love Art and is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts which needs our protection from the current anti-art, anti-environment administration.
This Cut-out “Trans-Jesus” came about after reading Suzanne Dewitt Hall’s blog suggesting that Jesus was the first transgendered man (born to a virgin, which would result in XX chromosome pairings, yet trans-formed to male). Hall’s ideas bring to mind mythologies that ascribe gender variance in humans to the actions of gods and include transgenderism, along with homosexuality and bisexuality as symbols for sacred or mythic experiences. Cultures that are open to these variances practice acceptance and kindness for all, which could be part of any religion or spiritual path.
Memories of the Vly
In the town of Saugerties, where I live, there is a magical place called the Vly, 184 acres of state land set aside for wildlife. Almost all of it is a freshwater marsh which makes it an important stopping place for migrating birds.
It is hard to describe the sensations I feel when I’m at the Vly which is why I had to paint this picture. It is very other worldly there and this world I’m usually present in falls away. One time we were paddling around the Vly in our rubber blow up boat, not near any trees and suddenly a spider, apparently attached to nothing but sky, spun down very close to our boat, as if it came to observe us. But the most amazing visual I remember from a day at the Vly was when we heard a rush of wings overhead and looked up to see a sky full of blue heron. I was used to viewing these big birds one at a time and it was very thrilling to see so many at once. I didn’t go home and paint the image as I did when I saw a flock of red-wing blackbirds. Instead I painted the feelings of wonder that I experience at the Vly, the reverie and enchantment that each visit there has brought me. The painting is titled Memories of the Vly. It is one of two pieces in the Mid-Hudson Arts Inspired by Plein Air Show that is closing on Sunday June 26, 1 to 3 PM, with a Brunch and informal talk by exhibiting artists, that is free and open to the public. The gallery is at 696 Dutchess Turnpike in Poughkeepsie.
I was eight years old when I discovered that the Protestant Cemetery was an ideal place for winter sport. It was close to my home and I already treated it as a fair weather playground and source of bouquets for my mother, which I selected from the profusion of flowers left after a burial. The graves were dispersed over two steep hills that descended one below the other, creating nice steep runs for sledding. The challenge of slaloming around the grave stones only added to the excitement.
One luminous day, after a grand snow storm, I arrived at the cemetery pulling my red sled, its runners freshly sharpened by my father with the whetting stone he used on kitchen knives. The iron gate was frozen open, making it easy to enter and begin a glorious day of many successful runs.
Maybe it was partly because I was tired that the accident happened. I’d been there for hours and the sun was beginning to set, flooding the sky with colors you only see in the winter; deep tangerine fading to peach and then pink. I had to get home for supper but decided on just one more run. In previous trips down I’d been slowed by a space of flat road that separated the hills, but the repeated passes of my sled and the dropping temperature had crusted the road with ice.
I felt a deep thrill as I plunged down the first hill, shot over the road and launched into the air. My delight was short-lived because I lost control and separated from my sled just as I was airborne over a large rectangular rock of heavy marble. My stomach hit the gravestone first and I collapsed over it like a limp doll, hyperventilating from the blow. I had never heard of getting the wind knocked out of you and my first thought was that this might be what dying felt like. But in a short while I was able to pick myself up and look for my sled.
I never discussed the accident with anyone for fear my days of cemetery sledding would be ended. But the memory is strong and after a recent snowfall I thought of it and made this watercolor, choosing to illustrate the good part, before I landed on the gravestone.
Red Riding Hood. Such stirring imagery; little girl, red cape, powerful animal. In tune with my love and concern for wolves I’ve rewritten the original story through paintings. The theme pulls me back again and again. New stories emerge through paint. A small painting called Wolf Crossing popped up several months ago. It sold but I kept thinking about it and decided to revisit Wolf Crossing, which is a pretty cool place, deep in the woods by a pristine lake. Red Riding Hood is making her home there with Wolf. He catches fish, she gathers berries and greens; they share together. This painting shows them on a misty night in late fall.
This is a painting about a happy moment in a true story with a tough ending.
On the night of a full moon in the spring of 2015, a small herd of buffalo in upstate New York escaped from a meat farm located on the east side of the Hudson River. Their leader, a powerful alpha male, led his tribe to the shores of the Hudson where they swam across in the light of the moon.They were heading west, to the lands where their ancestors once roamed wild and free. But their way was blocked by modern times and buildings and they wound up in a suburb, wandering around the backyards of a housing development, where the people who lived there called the authorities. By the time the police arrived, accompanied by local hunters who wanted to act out their big-game killing fantasies, the buffalo had made their way to a streambed. Targeted from a road above they had no chance for further escape and each and every one was slaughtered. At first I was very disturbed by this ending but later I realized if they had been humanely captured they would have been returned to the meat farm and wound up as buffalo burgers. Instead they made a brave move. They did escape and they died free. And as a friend said later, “They were still heading west.”
Riding home from Catskill yesterday, early evening, the light golden, I passed a former swamp, filling now with bushes and slender trees. More Red winged blackbirds than I’ve ever seen were flitting through them, and I stopped to watch, parking the car on a hill above the field. Another animal became visible; a small deer, pinky brown, gorgeous, facing away from me, eating something. I was thrilled, and felt lucky to live in the country, to be viewing this exquisite landscape. I said “Oh look at you my beauty,” to the deer and it turned its head, looking over its shoulder, directly at me, unafraid, just curious. And I was thrilled again.
When you experience something wonderful you want to share it, even if words or pictures can never really do it justice. The next day I painted this picture from memory.
Recently on a clear sunny day I went to the creek near our home to paint rocks and water. When I climbed the ledge to the place where I planned to set up I saw a large blue heron standing still, looking down at fish trapped in a small pool of water, one that was created from the streambed drying up.
The heron saw me and took off, flying low over the creek, but it stopped further up, not too far away and stood on rocks. I moved as quietly as I could to a large flat stone, sat down and took out my paints, palette, brushes and small sheets of watercolor paper. Keeping my eyes on the heron I sent it a silent message that I admired it and was only there to paint. Slowly, I put water from the stream in a plastic container and began to make a quick wash drawing of the heron before it flew off.
Surprisingly it stayed around, changing its position occasionally, but not too often, as obliging as any professional model could be. It was lovely there with the sun on my back, in communion with this wonderful bird who posed for me, outlined against a dark woods.
There was a gentle breeze that grew into a strong gust of wind and although I’d weighted each painting with small stones the wind picked them up. Three of them tumbled face down in a nearby pool and a fourth blew high into the air and tumbled out of sight. I chased after them and put fresh paint on the ones diluted from being in water. Through all of this the heron remained. Later I took a break and lay on my back on the warm stone and watched clouds gather over the creek. When I sat up the heron was gone. I’ll look for it again, maybe later today.
Originally posted June 5, 2014
I’ve been working on a cardboard sculpture that I made in response to disturbing updates from Friends of the Earth, an activist organization fighting to save bees.
Honey bees continue to die in greater numbers every year. Popular pesticides are a primary cause. Bee balm and Black-Eyed Susan are easy to grow flowers that provide good food for bees.
I began the sculpture with a wonderful piece of packing cardboard that I painted and punched holes in. Then I melted old candle stubs and poured the wax over the cardboard form. The hot wax melted the gold paint causing it to become diffused in an interesting way. Other materials such as gold paper and Senna tea leaves were added, secured with wax or glue. Although it is about bees dying I wanted it to have beautiful honey like colors. It’s called Empty Hive. I took this picture this morning but have worked on it since then. It’s a piece that keeps pulling me back in.