Monday, April 18, 2011

Polaroid of My Mother

New work: Polaroid of My Mother, oil and photographs on back-framed panel, 12 x 12 x 2 inches.

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.

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