I mostly paint stuff. Generally it could be called sill life, but also it might incorporate elements of landscape, animals or figures into the mix. Or it might be in an improbable arrangement. Lately I’ve been focused on mashing together still life objects with big skies and landscape components in an attempt to reflect on the way we appropriate nature for our own ends.
I find things on my daily walks in the arroyo with the dogs. Sticks, feathers, interesting rocks and even skulls and bones. When I first thought of what to paint for this show that would reflect my surroundings or culture, I thought of painting some of these things.
For a few days I collected objects with this in mind, but wanted to take it further. It made me think of the phenomenon, of how we buy plants and flowers to adorn our homes, while not always taking time to appreciate the beauty that naturally surrounds us.
The paintings I decided to do for Wide Bay High Desert II are essentially table-scapes in which I’ve replaced the cultivated cut flowers usually found on tables with local desert blooms. I think, in our busy lives, we can spend more time with this sort of “indoor nature” than with the outdoor version. It can mean we might also be out of touch with what’s happening in the environment and, to me, it echoes the possibly of being out of touch with our deepest selves.
I chose the Prickly Pear cactus because they are everywhere in the high desert. There are few varieties of cactus native to this region and there are really more stumpy trees and small shrubs than cactus. Prickly Pear often sprout up under one of these shrubs, where they take advantage of a bit of shade (and stealthily wait for dogs to jump into the bushes after rabbits – ouch!)
In winter the rabbits feast on the Pricky Pear, the cold winter nights erode parts of it as it freezes, molds grow on aging leaves, and in the early spring it begins its resurrection to bloom once again in May. Big thickets of it proffer incandescent yellow or red flowers that are easy for insects to find in the subtle palette of the desert landscape. The wide, flat leaf is called “Nopal” and is sold (without the spines) in the local markets and eaten in a dish called nopalitos.
The desert willow is a robust native tree that blooms profusely all spring and into the heat of the summer. Producing hundreds of seedpods each year, it self propagates like a rabbit and its roots dive some 70 feet below the surface in search of moisture. Its narrow leaves provide thin shade and, like most desert flowers, the blooms last only a few days. One popped up just outside my studio door a few years ago and blesses me daily with its profusion of delicate flowers. So naturally, I had to immortalize it in paint.