Part One: Summer Postcard
Up in Vermont this summer, at the foot of Ascutney, in the forest where I always go, I arrived to the cabin studio with fewer ideas and plans than usual. But I set out the green branch, and like magic the singing birds came--cedar waxwings over the pond all day, and bluebirds in the evening. I made the acquaintance of a vixen who I started to think of by the name "Xanthippe." And there was a bear.
In my experience, wildlife encounters take three forms:
The wild creature sees me and remains hidden while I carry on unwittingly, attending to my own concerns
(Far more rarely) I see the wild creature and remain undetected, able to witness it attending to its own concerns
We perceive one another and carry on, keeping one wary or--speaking for myself--interested eye on the other
The bear was for me a new case.
We stood (for a moment) in the mystery of reciprocity.
I can't stop thinking about him, his glossy black coat shining red and blue in the sun, and his curious eyes just feet away from mine.
Egg tempera on panel, 8" square, 8/2023
Egg tempera, by the way, is a new medium for me. This panel, Awen, is my first.
So I'm cultivating new mentors, near and far; living and gone.
I learned this summer that after starting his career in New York, the great egg tempera painter George Tooker lived and worked right in the same neighborhood as my cabin hideaway. Here is one of my favorites of his:
Egg tempera, 1957
Stunner, isn't it?
Symbolism can be limiting and dangerous, but I don't care for art without it.
Amen to that.
Allegory of the Cave
Watercolor and colored pencil, 16"x12", 8/2023
Cabin artifact (Xanthippe)
This one inspired by and referencing the Reciprocal Portrait Project (more on that below). Also referencing late summer blooms, some going to seed, and butterflies, including the Mourning Cloak, aka Camberwell Beauty, which overwinters as an adult.
48: Stop the World/Melt with You
Watercolor, 15" x 11", 8/2023
Part Two: Reciprocal Portrait Project
It's a one-hour format: Alternating 10-minute turns painting and being painted; seeing and being seen. I paint you; you paint me. We each have 3 turns: A beginning, a middle, an end. And although we end up with two paintings as traces of our time together, the heart of the matter unfolds intangibly in real time.
The bear encounter was an incredible experience, but no more so than the opportunity to sit opposite you and connect in the artosphere. In fact, he reminds me of you.
Wildlife Encounters (Sample of 12 on the way to almost-50 and beyond)
Reciprocal Portraits: My side
Watercolor, 15"x11", 2023
Wildlife Encounters (Sample of 8 on the way to almost-50 and beyond)
Reciprocal Portraits: Your side
Watercolor, 15"x11", 2023
I'm learning so much from each of you. Thank you for engaging with this project and the ideas that it is about. And especially for bringing the openness that allows the mystery of reciprocity.
The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.
But what is greater for us than all enigmatic webs at the margins of being is the central actuality of an everyday hour on earth, with a streak of sunshine on a maple twig and an intimation of the eternal You.
--Martin Buber, I and Thou
What more can I say? It's ineffable.
This project is ongoing. Come on in.
You've been the wolf, you've been the bear,
you were the grass when I was air,
the hush of the lake, eyes and lips,
a shyness at my fingertips,
a motion that knew when to slow,
the forest where I always go;
and now you are the windowsill
I rest my elbows on until
the night grows dark and I can't see
these silhouettes of you and me.
Wendy Videlock, Of You
One last thing.
Summer's ending. Here comes fall.
I'll have work in the festival as part of See Hear Now's show, Best Laid Plans.
It's a show of "abandoned projects, suspect ideas, unworkable proposals, and folly that suggest the residue of struggle can still yield poetry." (Philly Fringe Festival Guide)
Sounds fun, right? I would love to see you there. Party on the 9th!
Thank you for reading!