Art has been distracting me from writing.

Art has been distracting me from writing. First, the birthday art museum visit. Next, I’m working hard on fanart  – a series of digital paintings for online exchanges. And yesterday, I took the camera on my walk and reacted to the photography show I saw Sunday. It was just delicious.

It was Art, and it was Nature. Gossage made me consider the role of human intervention in my landscape in a new way. The romantic in me has yearned to make landscapes with either no evidence of humans, or a pastoral kind of beloved land, ala John Constable, the charming rural life.

oil painting of Piscataway Bay, MD
It Ends Up in My River, original oil painting ©2009 Patrise Henkel

Last year I finally made a painting where there’s litter on the beach, and it felt like a transition, a finally telling the truth in my painting. But I couldn’t  bear to put ALL the ugliness in my painting. Only a few artfully placed tires and plastic bottles.

With the camera I am willing to be more of a truth teller; but always with the provision of beautiful image.  Gossage showed me a pond, a wasted place we’re not supposed to look at, or like looking at. Its neither “LOOK AT THIS TRAVESTY!” nor a beautifying of a tragically disrespected landscape.

So yesterday my shooting experience was looking for the small and ugly human signs, as if I were tracking prey. No, not prey, but exactly, but a mysterious tribe.  Who leaves beer cans in trees? Who deposits a computer monitor along side the road in a national park? Who left this odd collection consisting of paint can, Christmas tinsel ornament, basketball hoop, and an iron lamp base?

Overhang © 2010 Patrise Henkel

I saw things anew. There is a rusted roofed cement block building, size of a small barn, that I’d never noticed, hiding in the tangled swamp forest.  There are fences of various types, and gates, laden with vines. A rusted chain and lock hangs on one unseen, its patina is so perfectly at home with the rough vines around it. And old wood.

I cringed from shooting the dirty diaper. But not the goose’s wing. Still my old sensibilities betray me. The detritus of nature is beauty, the detritus of man is filth.

The fenced field, now allowed to sprout sturdy small trees, spreads out a golden plane, with a rich brush of woods at the far side. This makes  an appealing space for the mind to soar. The fence is broken through in so many places the field would hold no livestock now. It belongs to the deer and other locals. But my quarry has made this mark on the land, still readable even as it fades away, at the speed of tree growth.

I see different. I feel different. This is art. This is nature. It makes space for my spirit.

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