24″x16″ oil on panel

Among the many tragic and difficult things we had to confront in 2020, the fires in Australia (and in California, the Amazon, etc.), were very difficult for me to face square on. My conversation about the fires in Australia with my friend, the very fine (Australian) poet James Walton, help me understand the devastation and loss of animal, including human, life. And, those conversations lead first to a charcoal sketch, (purchased by another friend and another very fine poet Doug May) and then to this more finished oil painting. The painting below is adapted from three late 19th and early 20th century photos of Australian Aboriginal people and a later 20th century photo from our family archives that I have no provenance for. It is in intended to address the theme of the imposition of outside forces (people, cultures, ideologies, etc.) on a native civilization that has learned to balance its relationship with nature over a period of integration with the land that, in the case of Australian aborigines may be as old as 70,000 years. There are many who feel that the fires in Australia were exacerbated by the failure of Europeans colonizing Australia to understand and integrate with the Australian ecologies (and failure to learn from indigenous people) and, after so many centuries, the hubris and antipathy toward the natural world culminated in massive conflagration. I think this is probably just the beginning.

My painting is intended to capture the fulcrum when things change not always for the best and, on a superficial level, is probably about the day and darkly transcendent moment Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay. But, on a deeper level, is intended to get at a foreboding – the premonition of consequences that we need to recognize and account for and build into our decision-making about how to live on this earth.

I used only 3 colors. Colors of fire, smoke and soot – Indian yellow, sepia extra (dark brown) and ivory black (brown black). I can’t say that producing a painting to understand a problem, in this case a terrible problem, is a catharsis. It still fills me with sorrow to look at this painting and re-experience the lost. But it does help me with some kind of understanding and, in some way, I feel closer to the problem, more exposed, and in that way at least more aware.

All of the figures are male and are intended to be entranced looking at the thing that arrives. The one figure turned away, (and perhaps wailing – certainly profoundly distressed) is the pregnant female. She is the seer. I feel very sure that if we are going to survive as a species, if we are not going to lose almost everything, (all flora and fauna), it will be because of the return to our core of Mother Energy. 


24″x16 oil on panel




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