Under Orion, On Coyote's Watch, oil and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
This winter, I took an unexpected five weeks off of painting--the longest hiatus in my life. Now I am back in the studio with renewed energy and a new direction.
I am calling my new series of paintings Horizontal Brothers. That’s what John Muir called animals. Though the phrase is dated in terms of gender, I like it. It implies equality — that we are all animals. Which of course we are, but many of us spend a good deal of energy denying it. Encounters with wildlife have always been my most magical moments. It is in these brief encounters that we are the most sure—and the most unsure—of who we are.
I grew up with wildlife. My mother had a talent for healing animals. People brought wounded and orphaned wildlife to our door, and, under her care, many got better. She never refused an animal in need. She grew up in the backwoods and had no veterinary training or college. She did not speak of her gift, but she practiced it diligently and with considerable humor.
A rehabilitated fighting cock lived in our kitchen, a recovering raccoon on the back porch. A starling rode on her shoulder. Rabbits were everywhere, including my bedroom. A red-tailed hawk found floating in a barrel of dirty motor oil stayed for a year before he was rehabiltated and released. He returned each year with a mate, lighting on my mother’s arm with a melodious keen when she whistled.
A new crop of fledgling birds and kit rabbits were either healed or buried ceremoniously in our backyard cemetery each spring. It was just a matter of time before wildlife became the primary subject of my paintings.