13 February 2009

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Silhouette Paintings

Whew.  I'm dutifully slurping down my  green drink that eric leaves on the counter for me every morning, and waiting for my coffee to kick in so i can get on the treadmill.  I have to admit I can't handle the green drink every day...let's just say sometimes the dogs are getting more veggies than usual :)  I do it a lot though because it is a great breakfast; it's such an energizer, and it's a detoxifier to boot.  Also if i don't manage to eat living green cells later in the day i know i've managed a few servings with just the drink.  It took me a very long time to come around to the idea that eating isn't all fun and games, that sometimes it's a duty and it doesn't matter if you "like" something.  When I was a sugar junkie pre-teen i had fantasies that when i finally lived on my own i would have a pantry stockpiled with doughnuts and cakes at all times.  sigh.  maybe this is all on my mind because i spent the evening painting cupcakes.  more about that artwork later.
I'm excited i finally finished my silhouette paintings of rocky mountain wildlife.  Except for the buffalo, these are all animals we lived with in montana, some on a daily basis, like the deer, and one winter, the elk.  The moose would come about twice a year and it felt like we were being blessed by a great ghost spirit, they are just unimaginable in shape and size, like a prehistoric relative of the deer, you can really feel a greater history in their presence...animals of that size have their own rather heart stopping vibration; they always fill me with awe.  Then the awe gets brushed aside as the hootenanny ensues, for moose make most horses go completely bonkers.  
I do not miss living with mountain lions (cougars) or bear.  Although they are near enough where we now live, it is a rare occurrence to have one of them wander this far out into farm land.  The mountains where they live make a gorgeous sunset silhouette for us, it's the icing on the cake for our natural life, but far enough away that i don't have to worry about bears getting into my garbage or cougars attacking my horses.  There  are a lot of acres of pasture and fenceline between us and them now, which is fine with me.  I am grateful for their presence on the earth and I wish them well...from a safe distance.  For those of you who have never lived in a wildlife interface area, moose are considered to be extremely dangerous and we always kept our distance and had our moments of awe from safe positions on our property: the deck, the livingroom or the treehouse...but moose don't have a habit of attacking animals.  i was more worried about my babies than myself ("babies" meaning our horses and dogs)...cougars attack horses, dogs and people.  bears get dangerous when they become accustomed to living off of garbage and too familiar with humans and human environments.  i was never too worried for my personal safety but i have gorgeous, goofy, curious, too-brave-for-their-own-good hounds.  our last summer in montana one of the neighbors had taken to leaving their garbage outside - big no-no in wilderness country.  you have to let your garbage accumulate inside the house and take it out the DAY garbage gets picked up.  in the blink of an eye the bear population moved in, and our ravine was a fabulous place for them to live between neighborhood raids.  they get bolder and bolder, going on people's decks, pulling down bird feeders, tipping over barbecues.  when cornered or feeling threatened, any animal can be dangerous.  it was a rule that you would never sleep in the summer with your french doors open as you'd invariably end up with a bear in your kitchen.  they're just hungry all the time.  anyway i was overnight at a friend's and my husband told me a chilling story of a giant black bear on his way from the neighbor's unwitting feeding ground to her new home in our ravine, and she passed right by our house.  he was on the computer with a heap of dogs at his feet and the doors open onto the deck.  our old kate, ferociously protective despite being fairly crippled and having four kinds of cancer, went baying, snarling and snapping after this giant bear.  eric bellowed but once a hound gives chase, it's hard to get their attention again.  he said he finally yelled so loud and with such intention that kate actually stopped and turned and looked at him.  but so did the bear.  then the bear noticed kate, right behind her.   he said for one second everyone was frozen in place and he thought kate was a goner.  he said he quietly informed her she better get her dilapidated fanny back on the deck without hesitation or she might become lunch, or at the least, incur a swat she had no hope of surviving at her age.  kate, unbelievably, cooperated.  eric said the bear stood there regarding everyone and it was kind of a tense moment.  then it turned and headed for the ravine.  we lucked out many times when it came to wildlife.  
Now I'm really into nuthatches and chickadees and quail and crows.  But I wanted to commemorate the majestic creatures we shared habitat with in our amazing montana home.  I also wanted to do my version of western interior art and cabin decor.  There is no dearth of moose imagery sponge painted onto table settings.  I wanted to work with the silhouette because it's so iconic, even if you haven't had the pleasure of living with montana wildlife i think these shapes trigger some ancestral memory.  That's why street crossing signs are so effective...in the quickest possible way they convey a message to your brain that circumvents the tediousness of language, or the potential misunderstandings inherent in interpreting language.  But I also wanted to juxtapose these icons with languages real and invented (shorthand), and use vintage text for the histories they invoke.  Coating them in beeswax and resin enhances the visceral experience that their history and our memory of them is important. The beeswax gives a whole other connection to nature and it really sucks the viewer in with its organic, living quality.  These are irresistible and they soon are completely dulled and smudged with fingerprints.  I actually love waiting for this because it's so fun to take a soft cloth and buff them out.  I have been experimenting with polar fleece, sheepskin, microfiber, cloth diapers...they all work well and bring up this amazing luster that almost looks like enamel but for the soft lumps and swells of the wax.  It reminds me of putting parade wax on my dressage boots...you can never buff them enough and each round brings up new discoveries and further progress.  sigh.  okay, i'm a weirdo.  i just told you i love polishing my riding boots.  yes, i did.
enjoy this series and if you know of any interior designers or catalogues that you think need to carry them, please let me know or feel free to forward my blog and info.  i thought i would shop them around a little and get feedback.  i thought they'd also make a great housewarming gift for anyone buying a new mountain abode or decorating a cabin; i think they're flexible enough they could work with a range of design sensibilities, from modern to more traditional and rustic.
have a marvelous day and thank you for being here. 

1 comment:

tangled sky studio said...

Hi Ursula,
This is a beautiful collection and I love the text behind the shadowy figures. Thanks for sharing the inspiration for this series of paintings...
Have a lovely weekend!