Attention is the beginning of devotion.
Mary Oliver, UPSTREAM
This past week, on three consecutive days, I happened to look up at a slice of sky framed between urban roofline and trees, and was graced with the reassuring sight of the fall bird migration. On Day 1, it was a dense kettle of swirling, rising Turkey Vultures; on Day 2, a trio of Red-tail Hawks, and Day 3, two dozen Canada Geese flew overhead, announcing their passage in a boisterous V. Each sighting was fleeting, and wondrous.
On the third day dread seeped in, as the news reports from California became dire. The latest oil spill is causing catastrophic environmental damage to coastal wetlands on the Pacific Flyway, a critical link on the migratory bird route. Untold numbers of fish, marine mammals and avian species have already died or are threatened.
Looking out, looking in.
I paint a lot of birds. Birds looking directly at you. After so many years, I don't think it's a phase. I'm especially captivated by the gaze of raptors. The Peregrine Falcon who brought me to my knees in 2016 continues to show up in my paintings, like a steadying ballast. Wild lands and other creatures - coyotes, horses, foxes - also inspire paintings that embody memories and emotions, some more conscious than others. When creatures emerge from abstract marks, or drive me to ruin a perfectly good painting, it feels like intermediaries are at play. These paintings are usually better. Honest, not perfectly good.
In this exhibition, I'm thinking about ways of looking and what it evokes.
Looking out - seeking connection, or something in the distance. Taking care of, in a
protective way, or being wary of.
I'm going to look out for you. Or, Look out!
Looking in - having empathy, being curious, reflecting. What if we were to imagine what the land and creatures feel when looking at us? Or their experience of being looked at?
Keep looking, notice, imagine the experience of the other.
Looking in can mean attending to other's needs, or taking action.
I'll look in on you. I'll look into that.
I invite you to do your own looking. Attention is the beginning of devotion.
6 October 2021