Monday, April 18, 2011
This piece is from the series I am working on called Horizontal Brothers--John Muir's term for non-human animals. It is new and different for me to be working the vein of realism, albeit expressive, abstracted realism. Wildlife paintings are coming fast and furious. I am now working on ravens and a mountain goat.
This painting began when I went to K-Mart to buy plastic magnetic picture frames for my fridge. The photo in the frames recalled a polaroid I snapped of my mother when I was 10. While I was looking at those nine identical photos, the painting formed in my mind.
I've met eight mountain lions in the wild, the most recent on the last winter solstice, in a nearby forest--the first one I have seen in its truest element--the night. I've seen more mountain lions than I have bobcats or foxes. I feel like a lion magnet. All of the lions were fairly disinterested in me.
My most recent lion acquaintance had been marking all of the human trails in an area where I run, where national forest meets city. Leaving scat strategically at the beginning and dead center of every human trail in an area is unusual behavior for these cats. I avoided the area for awhile, but I knew it was a matter of time before we met. I don't usually run at night, but there I was, under a full moon, on the solstice, in the snow.
There he was (an adolescent male, I believe), 25 yards ahead of me, planted across the trailhead as I finished up my run, in the exact spot he had marked earlier, his eyes fixed on me. As I met his gaze, all of his molecules soundlessly rearranged, 180 degrees, into a mirror image of the position I first saw him in, without his taking his eyes off me. Then, just as soundlessly, he dissolved into the forest--gone.
I went back the next morning to track him in the snow. Had I not seen the tracks, I might have doubted the whole experience. He had taken off up a steep pine-covered slope in 10-15 foot bounds. After that night, I saw his markings less frequently, and then not at all. Most likely he followed the deer to higher altitudes with the warmer weather. May he live long and well.