Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tent Rocks

I went hiking at Tent Rocks National Monument, at Cochiti Pueblo, NM, with my sister and my three daughters. The 1.75 mile hike offers a great deal of visual bang for the energy expenditure. It's a stroll in the park that proceeds through a narrow canyon to a ridge top with 360° mountain views. The striations in the rocks, their feminine forms, produced by waves when this desert was an ocean, and their resemblance to giant figures with tiny heads, makes the place a visual wonderland. It was excellent inspiration for my continued work on the Big Dream series of paintings. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wild Turkeys

There is light snow here. It’s getting old and icy. The backcountry skiing was surprisingly good last week, despite the dearth of snow. I hope more is on the way. I enjoyed a beautiful run this morning. I started out in the red brush pictured above and ran up a ridge. I was a bit distracted by thoughts. Thus, it seemed that out of nowhere a great rush of noise erupted, as though something very large was springing out of the brush. I thought it was the mountain lion that I know lives up there. But no. One never hears the mountain lion coming. It was a flock of wild turkeys, taking flight. They left some lovely feathers in the snow in their wake.

Wild turkeys make all sorts of noises I couldn’t hope to imitate, let alone describe. Usually, I see them before they take off, and the noise isn’t so astonishing. They are large and ungainly. I saw what may have been the same flock often last winter, in the same area. I marveled at their continued existence, since it seemed to take them considerably longer to get off the ground than it would take a predator to spring. I always encountered them near the same ridgetop, the high point in the area. Awkward as they seem on the ground, in flight they are a beautiful sight. On a good downdraft, they soar without even a flap of a wing for what seems like hundreds of yards. They became accustomed to me last winter, and, after awhile, they stopped expending the huge amount of energy it takes them to take to the air. Instead, they ambled off, eyeing me pensively, looking slightly annoyed, and going about their business of seed-eating.

The coloring of wild turkeys found its way into my paintings last winter, and it probably will again now. I am still working on my Big Dream series of oil paintings that incorporate deer bones, and on the occasional watercolor. Another series has been in my head for months now. It will employ enlarged topographical maps printed, transferred, or adhered onto canvas and painted over. I want to make visual the way in which I get to know backcountry terrain by traversing it again and again with my body. For now, it’s time to turn my body toward the studio and get to work. I’ve got a show, with an energetic bunch of young artists, coming up at the Factory on 5th in Albuquerque. I’ll be hanging out there this Saturday, 19 December, from 1:00-6:00.

Here’s a parting shot of the frozen Santa Fe River, from the ridgetop I reached this morning, with Thompson Peak looming large in the morning light.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New work

I enjoyed another great run up Picacho in a little bit of snow this morning. The deer are in their rutting season, which means that the bucks are running themselves ragged. Lots of new deer tracks in the snow, mostly bucks (they drag their hooves slightly, which shows up only in snowy tracks).  All of the deer in the area went into hiding for several weeks when a mountain lion made its presence known, and I missed seeing them. I haven't seen new lion tracks in a week or more, and I hope it has moved on.  All of the deer bones and hair I used in the artwork above were gathered from a single site, just outside a mountain lion's denning area, not far from Picacho.

The exposed deer bones recreate the feelings of discovery and impermanence that arise when I come across bones and other reminders of the daily survival struggles of wildlife. These paintings are tableaus of the marks and signs that represent what we can know about wildlife. The rest is imagination. This morning I came across the marks of a bobcat tracking deer. They don't usually do this, because adult deer are too formidable a prey for them. There was a single spot of blood in the snow. It did not come from the bobcat's paw, nor was there any sign of a kill. It held but did not divulge a narrative.

Now—must get back to the studio.