My paintings are expressions of love. I feel intimately connected to the Land, Water, and Sky. Through my art, I seek to illustrate the beauty of nature so that my creations engender a feeling of appreciation, joy, and a profound sense of responsibility for the earth. My paintings have become prayers for mindfulness.
A Place of Peace
There are places on Earth where one can not help but feel peaceful. Authors and poets have referred to these places that bring peace as spiritual places where one feels a welling of emotion in the form of love, gratitude, and understanding. In the novel Celestine Prophecy, these spiritual places are described. Usually, these are places of great natural beauty. Always, however, these spiritual places have a tangible energy that inspires a sense of wonder, love, gratitude, joy, understanding, and peace.
One such place is on Madeline Island. Madeline Island is one of the Apostle Islands, which sit in Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Madeline Island asks to be engaged as a spiritual place – not from a distance, but up close. Put yourself immediately in the landscape. Sit on a cliff. Breathe. Listen. Feel. Get your feet wet. Use your own balance – set yourself where it is required. Feel the heat of the sun and the caress of the wind on your skin. Breathe in the Gifts of Creation.
Almost everyone who visits Lake Superior for the first time takes note of the clarity of the Water. Appearing close to the surface, bedrock and boulders are further down than one might think. Water always looks different. We think we know what Water looks like, but it is the eternal chameleon.
Water varies in clarity. It reflects as a mirror. It disappears as a window. It amplifies and distorts. The interaction between the sunlight, the Water, and the bedrock just beneath a slightly rippled surface creates dazzling patterns of light, refracted through the Water, and projected onto the bedrock. Those particular ripples of light display the colors of rainbows in fleeting slivers.
There are many cliffs on Madeline Island. Some of these cliffs are good for jumping from and others are not. Like turning points in our lives, sometimes it is good to take the leap and plunge into the cold Water below to swim. Sometimes it is unwise to jump because of the depth, the height, the waves, or the temperature. Sometimes it is wise to head back from where you came.
The Sleeping Dogs - the cliffs and rock formations along the shores of Lake Superior - are said to be the manifestation of spirits that guard the land. The Sleeping Dogs can astound us with their beauty, their longevity, their color, their sovereignty. The Sleeping Dogs can put butterflies in your belly, make you feel small (in a good way), and provide a safe, warm spot to dry in the sun.
The power of the Sleeping Dogs lies in their ability to instill in us the desire to protect the land and Water so that we can continue to live upon and enjoy this planet. The Sleeping Dogs take many forms. Beside Dogs, some look like Bears. Others like Otters, Iguanas, Turtles, Whales, Alligators, Trout, Eagles, and creatures unnervingly like Humans. They all represent those things that must be left at rest, unless one feels sure they are prepared for the release of energy that would surely follow any awakening. It is this concept that has given them their name. So, as they say, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
The reality is the land needs protection. Visitors and residents alike sometimes impact the land and Water in adverse ways. Trees were once harvested in ways that brought decades of disruption and permanent loss. Oil companies spill toxic sludge in our rivers and want to bring tar sands oil across Lake Superior. Nuclear waste and taconite tailings (mining waste) have been dumped in The Lake. The Water has been contaminated, wild rice beds are dying, and fish are full of mercury. Mineral deposits that lie beneath the surface are sought by mining companies who will extract what they want with cyanide. Assaults by Gogebic Taconite, Kennecott Mining and others in their quest for zinc, copper, and other minerals will leave sulfate, arsenic, mercury, lead, and other poisonous waste in the wake of their empty promises for economic prosperity.
The wealth of this world isn’t lying deep in the ground in the form of metal, oil, and coal. The wealth of this world is all around us in the form of places of peace that provide inspiration, clean Water, breathable air, and nutritious food. Wild Rice is a gift from the Water. Very Nutritious. High in fiber. Twice the protein of white rice. There are Red Raspberries, Mushrooms, Wild Onions, White Fish, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, Trout, and Cranberries. Delicious! Real food, available in our back yards. This is only a small part of what is at stake.
Circles and Squares
“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” - James Baldwin. I have been exploring the compositional differences created from painting single images onto different shapes (round canvases and square canvases). I have a number of questions regarding canvas shape. I am interested to discover how the different shapes might affect the execution and emotional result of the works.
Does the viewer of circular works imagine the subjects of the art in a broader context or as isolated objects? Does the viewer see themselves in the world portrayed in the artwork? Would round art encourage people to view the world holistically? Would the shape of the work enhance the emotional response to a particular subject matter? To any subject matter? Artists are well known for challenging the norm. Why has this most basic compositional element gone largely unchallenged?
Philosophically, I am attracted to the idea of breaking with the tendency to build, carry, and think in boxes. Art is said to be a view of the Universe and of human reality expressed in a particular medium and shared with others. That view exists within a cultural context. Mainstream culture does not often utilize circular shapes. Are pervasive cultural attitudes and the mainstream world view so deeply imbedded that even the artists can not deconstruct the tendency to see things in boxes rather than in circular shapes? Is the tendency to create right-angled objects a reflection of linear thinking, rather than holistic thinking? Is it a matter of efficiency? Is the use of circular formats impractical from a structural point of view?
For traditional Indigenous cultures, circular structures are common and the circle represents many spiritual, scientific, social, and functional ideas. The traditional Indigenous view is one of connectedness and the world is understood in holistic terms. The Seven Fires prophecies of the Anishinaabeg refers to a time when mainstream culture comes to utilize the circle, view the world as connected, trust their intuition, and understand the place held by Human Beings is within the web of life. The circle is the symbol of this understanding.