Landscapes of my mind

Mama bear, oil on stretched canvas, 16 x 20″ – 40.6 x 50.8 cm

The “Mama bear” painting started on my mind, rather than on my sketch book or canvas. It begun very early in the morning, even before the sun came out. This has happened a lot in the past couple of years: I wake up with an urge to open up my sketchbook and draw an idea that shows up over and over. In this instance, we were celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday in Asheville, North Carolina, and we were seeing posted signs about bears in almost every hike. Some of them funny: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but bears will kill you,” others were just clear warnings from the National Park Service about what to do when you spot a bear. Let’s say that if someone saw me one early morning, going outside of the house to the car to get the ear-pods I had forgotten the night before (and I needed them in case my sisters or niece who live in Europe saw me online and rang me), they would have chuckled at the sight, or my thoughts: I had all kinds of scenarios quickly devised for a bear encounter. We were also told deadly stories about yellow wasps. One was told of a neighbor of our host who had been stung over 20 times (and survived by jumping into a hot tub in her garden), and when she went to “deal” with the yellow wasps’ nest a few days later, she saw it had disappeared under a bear paw print. Nature at its best. Well, in this painting, “Mama bear,” she and her cubs are in their natural habitat. The only matter troubling her is the deep chasm in the rocks.

She doesn’t think her cubs are ready to jump that far to get to the other side, or realize the danger. She knows they are very naughty and curious, so this gives her ample reason to be concerned. She knows that preoccupying is the last recourse, and instead needs to calmly act and not stress –she practices not worrying every day, but it seems to be in her nature or upbringing to do so. This is another opportunity for her to practice a new skill and rewire her brain. She tells herself: ‘Take a deep breath, think, open your mind, remain calm, act cool, remain collected.’

The visible rocks in this painting sustain Mama bear and her family, while providing the ground for the roots of the trees to anchor and expand. You should have seen how tiny the seeds of these trees were when they first landed close to the deep chasm.

The small gaps in the soil became a potential new place to live for them. The seeds stayed there, getting cozy on the meager topsoil, and one day they sprang and began to dig and penetrate deep, always constrained by the rocks. Such patience, determination and tenacity to be rooted, to be born, to become the young trees you see today.

The trees, although of the same species, are behaving so differently. I thought that either one is a late bloomer, and its leaves are not out yet, or that the bears have eaten all the tender leaves. That is a story these trees can only tell, I do not know the answer. Mama bear has not considered the possibility that the bears have already jumped to the other side and eaten the tree’s leaves; and I am not bringing it up.

I have added two faces to this painting. Can you see them? They are part of the edge of the chasm, facing each other in the eternity of the rocks.

I like to be reminded of our human nature within Nature. Noticing my humanity makes me humble and gives me perspective, and I so appreciate that feeling. These are my first bears in a painting. They are showing up a lot more in my sketches now that my new home in the historic Town of Leesburg, Virginia, is in a landscape where bears are present. Caleb Ives Bach, one of the art critics of my “Nature of Delight” exhibit in Washington DC, told me, before our move to Leesburg, that he was curious as to how the new landscape would affect my paintings. Now that he has seen a few of the newer ones, he is not surprised about bears, vineyards and mountain ranges, night camping, snow, elks and sycamores trees showing up. I am always a bit surprised at what shows up in sketches, drawings and paintings. I intentionally want no strings attached when I paint and respect my choices without overthinking them or making them realistic. I guess that is another perk of being an intuitive and self-taught painter: spontaneity is the driver, no need to obey the classic representational western art form or academic teachings, free of traditional ties. Hurray!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s