Gardens and Art

Big Clay Pot;CBG

Big Clay Pot

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As I’ve mentioned you some of you, my dad passed away about a month ago.  On Father’s Day, in fact.  He was a wonderful man who lived an enormous, interesting life, from serveying mountain peaks in Alaska to helping design hydro-electric plants in Bangladesh.  Wherever he traveled he made a point of learning local customs and language, and would relate to a person at whatever level they felt comfortable. I could go on and on, of course, as any of us could about our dads. I adored him and feel I’ve lost my moorings without him to talk to every couple of days.

My trips into my studio have been sporadic since he died, and I notice my interests have shifted.  I find I’m drawn to gardens more, and paintings of them. It turns out there is a rich history of artists in their gardens.  Not a serious subject, maybe. But then, I think there can be a useful message here. Many of my environmentalist friends espouse a wish that humans would go away. Some people hate nature, some people love nature and hate people.  Wouldn’t it be better to embrace both?  Since both exist, after all.

My dad would go into a proposed project with a series of questions.  What conditions exist?  What problems exist? How can a solution be found that maximizes benefit but causes least harm?  Well, granted, he worked on a number of dams in his day and we didn’t always see eye to eye on that.  But the point I took from his method was always to look to nature for solutions. For me, a garden can be an excellent model for getting along with nature.  Can you plant beautiful plants in with the food plants? This can keep soil in good tilth and break up pest problems. Can you contour the garden to maximize water where needed? Can you put in plants with big leaves in that area that always grows weeds, so you don’t need herbicide? These are some of the things gardening has taught me. I want to share them, because in the face of all the scary news of climate change, water shortage, (and contamination from chemicals), bee hive crashes, I think we need to find elegant, easy actions to take to help ourselves out of the mess we find ourselves in.

For some, the Garden of Eden was nature before people stumbled.  I’ve always felt it could be a paradise in which people worked with nature.  A beautiful, healing place.  What do you  think? Can we create that? That would be some art.

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Butterflies and Turtles

Baltimore Checkerspot and Turtlehead

“Baltimore Checkerspot and Turtlehead”

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This is my debut with my new smartphone.  The Samsung S6 takes amazing photos, but will they translate on the internet?  Fingers crossed…

Many beautiful moons ago when I got drawn into prairie restoration and butterfly monitoring, I learned of efforts to rescue the Baltimore Checkerspot from extinction. It is a fascinating business involving host plants and habitat. Although the butterfly doesn’t live at Illinois Beach State Park anymore, (it is hanging on in other sites), I did come across a small population of its host plant, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) .  I wanted to paint it in a way that suggested its habitat, and also to pour out my yearning for the butterfly that should accompany it and hopefully will again, one day.