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Cycle of Life

A few weeks ago I noticed a deer– a doe– laying down, tucked back in a group of mixed pines that are at the edge of the driveway in front of my studio. Something seemed amiss here.  Too still and not looking back at me when I stopped walking to gaze in at it.

Moving closer I discovered that it was dead. There were no obvious wounds which was my first thought. Bow hunting season had opened recently and perhaps she had been hit and made it to this spot. But looking closer there were a couple of scrapes around her face and neck. Most likely she had been hit by a car and found her way to this quiet little glade to succumb.

There are worse places to die.

I’ve watched many groups of deer around my studio over the past decade and have witnessed many of them grow up in this comfortable safe space. I watch them playfully bounce around, often running crazily in circles around the studio. I watch them graze at the grass and undergrowth. Watch them sleep out in the lawn. Watch the males test their strength with their new antlers. One even sleeps up next to the foundation wall behind the scraggly hedges at the front of the studio.

I appreciate their struggle to live as a wild creature among humans. It’s hard enough for those of us who are somewhat human. And while I understand the place of death in the cycle of life, seeing this poor dead doe made me sad.

It also made me wonder if I should do anything with her body. It was pretty close to the studio and I worried that it might create an odor. I’ve been around enough of that stench of death to know I didn’t want to wallow in it for an extended period. Maybe I should get a bag of lime? Bury it?

In the end I left it where it was. A day passed before I set up a trail cam to capture whatever came to visit.The carcass had been moved a bit and the rear haunch had been eaten at. The belly was open now and the organs exposed. The camera was setup and revealed a few visitors. But only a few. Less than I had anticipated.

The first two nights brought a single coyote who ate a bit at the rear haunch. Most likely it was the one who had moved the carcass.

 

The third day brought a couple of crows who worked at a spot behind the front leg. At this point, the open belly was writhing mass of maggots along with an army of beetles that ran to and from the body, grabbing bits of it disappearing under leaves with their precious cargo. I did not take pictures of the maggots or the beetles.

On the next two days the turkey buzzards came. If you have never seen buzzards up close, they are an impressive bird the size of an eagle with a huge wingspan. Walking down my driveway on one of these days, there were 7 or 8 of these guys in the trees around this spot. Watching them flee through the low pines, trying to avoid the many branches, with their majestic soaring way of flying was thing to behold. They did quite a job over the time they were there although nothing compared to the constant around the clock erosion caused by the maggots and beetles.

This guy below acted like the king, showing off his wingspan chasing off the others at times.

Below is the deer at the end of five days from when I first set up the camera.

Below is the next day. The turkey buzzards came for one last quick nosh. You can see how much work the maggots and beetles accomplished since the last photo above which was taken only 24 hours earlier. They are at it constantly.

Below is at the end of seven days. Little remained but bones, a bit of hair and hardened skin around the skull. Thanks to scavengers, large and small, most of the deer had made its way back into the cycle of life. If this had been further up in the woods, the bones might even be gone by now.

The odor was surprisingly limited. It didn’t emanate in waves that went out in all directions. Rather came out in narrows bands  that would move in whichever direction the air was moving at the moment. Sometimes I could walk up the carcass and barely smell a thing from it even as I stood mere feet away. But walking away around the corner from it, maybe a hundred feet away from it, I would cross through a band of pure stink that might be twenty feet wide. Once through, no more smell. After about five days the odor was nearly gone altogether.

As sad as it made me, it was an interesting thing to witness. It gave me a closer glimpse into the cycle of life, how the death of one creature can perpetrate the life of another. We don’t often get to see that firsthand so I feel lucky in an odd sort of way.

 

 

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Principle Gallery Talk Today

Gallery Talk today at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, starting at 1 PM. The weather is supposed to be perfect and there’s a great art festival on King Street. Plus you can possibly win a painting at the Gallery Talk. Plus there are some other neat surprises.

Hope you can make it.

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DATE CHANGE!

As far as the weather, we’ve been pretty fortunate for the past 15 years holding my annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in conjunction with the King Street Arts Festival in Alexandria. There has been a light shower once or twice and one year there was one large storm with a tornado touching down several miles away that hit late Saturday afternoon of the weekend festival. But overall it has normally been excellent weather.

Well, this year is bucking the trend. Hurricane Florence seems to be setting a direct course for the east coast of the US and when a hurricane of the size they are talking about is coming your way, it’s best to pay attention. They were already sandbagging the blocks below the gallery along the Potomac River this afternoon in preparation for the storm and the possible surge on the river. As a result, the King Street Arts Festival has postponed this year’s event, rescheduling it until the following weekend, September 22 and 23.

The Gallery and I agreed that it wouldn’t make sense to try to give the talk in a possibly raging storm. The storm scene in the movie Key Largo comes to mind. Not a good time. So we have moved this year’s Gallery Talk to the following Saturday, September 22,at the same 1 PM time.

Sorry for any inconvenience and I hope you’ll still be able to make it to the gallery on the 22nd. I promise it will be one week better!

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I have finally chose the painting that will be given away at this coming Saturday’s Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. It is called Deep Focus and is 18″ by 18″ on canvas. It has been around for several years now and each time it returns from a gallery I am surprised because it is a real favorite of mine, hitting the mark for me on so many points. I think you can see my feelings for this painting in the post below that I wrote when it was first painted.

So, if you would like to have a chance ( decent odds, too!) at taking this favorite of mine home with you, come on out to the Principle Gallery  in historic and beautiful Alexandria, VA this coming Saturday, September 15, for my annual Gallery Talk that begins at 1 PM. There will be some other surprises as well.

Hope to see you there!

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.

–Buddha

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This new piece, 18″ by 18″ on canvas, is titled Deep Focus. This was one of those pieces that just seemed to fall out with very little inner wrangling or consternation. Once I started, it was off and running with what seemed very little assistance from me.

It was immediately clear that this painting was going to be about focus, about looking deeper and deeper into the canvas. Built from the bottom, each layer pushed the eye further inward. About halfway into this I began to think of the title for this as being AutoFocus, just for the ease with which it was emerging. But I finally opted for Deep Focus because of the depth I was seeing in the picture and the way everything seemed to gravitate toward the central point of the sun that is peeking over the distant hill.

This piece seems to have a very meditative quality, a placid feeling that goes well with the ease of the piece. Or at least, the ease that I felt in its creation. Sitting here now, taking it in, its construction seems simple, almost naive. Yet there is a feeling of opulence that I think comes from the colors and curves of the landscape that sheds this naivete and gives it a feeling of deeper knowledge. Or a way to deeper knowledge. Far from naive.

Years ago, I had a hard time trusting the validity of pieces that fell so easily from my hand, believing that  struggle must be part of making a painting come alive. I was almost embarrassed by the ease with which some pieces came. But over time, I have come to believe that it is this effortless work that is the goal, the work that is true and has the authenticity that I seek. This piece is a testament to the trust in my intuition that has come with time.

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One Week Away

My Artist Talk ( or Gallery Talk or Art Talk or whatever you want to call it!) at the Principle Gallery is next Saturday, September 15, beginning at 1 PM. I will be unveiling the prize painting and maybe a few other details in the next few days so please check back.

It could be a lot of fun. Hope you can make it!

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Leger/ Color

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Man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water.

Fernand Leger

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Braque/ Ideas

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Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.

Georges Braque

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