Thursday, September 22, 2022

Building the Next Generation

 My new series, “Building the Next Generation” is inspired by a burst of fertility in my family. Admiring our children’s bold step into parenthood at a seemingly precarious time reminds me of the insistent power of procreation. Every life form is constantly in the act of building its next generation, moving life forward. Clearly and beautifully visible in plants, the cycle of flower, fruit, and seed makes visible nature’s powerful drive to perpetuate life and is the focus of these paintings.

Acorns to Oaks, 30x24 oil on canvas

I’ve loved acorns since childhood. They littered the shady spots where my family spent some of it’s happiest days. The acorn’s smooth surface nestled perfectly in my palm and I marveled at how such a small perfect thing could create such big beautifully tangled trees. I wondered how many animals would make meals of all the scattered nuts and was entranced by the nut’s cup shaped cap that fit perfectly on the tip of my finger - weren’t they just perfect elf caps?

The oak remains one of my favorite trees and acorns can be found in bowls and on window sills around my house and they appear frequently in sketch books, prints and paintings I’ve made over the decades, this being the most recent. 

 Arbutus in Winter, 24x36 oil on canvas

I love Arbutus Undo, also known as the Strawberry Tree, so much that I have planted 4 on my property. They have a beautiful brick red trunk and bright red branches, glossy green leaves and seasonally produce delicate bunches of cascading bell shaped white flowers. To me the real treat is that it produces fruit in red, orange and yellow that remain on the tree for months and months and look for all the world like artfully hung ornaments!

 Dog Rose Hips, 14x18 oil on panel

Following my daughter down a wooded path on a drippy afternoon in Denmark I was stopped by these gorgeous rose hips. They shone like apples in the tangle of their canes and called out to me to touch them or perhaps eat them. It turns out I wouldn’t have suffered any Alice in Wonderland consequences, native cultures have included the hips of the Dog Rose in their cuisine for centuries. Tea, jams, breads, wines and a favored Swedish soup all deliver the high level of vitamin C and antioxidants found in the beautiful fruit of the Dog Rose. 

 Coastal Pittosporum, 36x24 oil on canvas

The Pittosporum is a decorative plant used extensively in landscaping in Southern California. It has small white flowers that are sweetly scented and fruit that bursts open on ripening to release it’s sticky seeds. It is primarily planted for its attractive long lance shaped leaves that have lovely wavy edges. Recently many of our coastal Pittosporum have turned a bright yellow.

 Baja Fairy Duster, 16x20 oil on panel

I came across this plant while walking with a friend in the Coachella Valley in Southern California. The twiggy plant had scarlet tufted flowers which were beginning to droop. The long red stamens had gone a little rusty and and looked like a long used powder puff looking forward to retirement. What drew my eye were the seed pods looping into and around one another seemingly enjoying one another’s company before they crack open and release their seeds. 

 Eucalyptus Seed Husks, 20x18 oil on panel

I love eucalyptus trees. Their distinctive silhouette has always punctuated my favorite vistas, their fragrance moves through my home and their uniquely muscled branches supporting ribbons of swaying blue green leaves offer a vision of strength and grace that I wish the rest of the world would strive for. 

Eucalyptus are  a necessary part of my series “Building the Next Generation” not only because I’ve lived my life under them but because they are an amazing expression of nature’s powerful intent to propagate. Eucalyptus often bear flower buds in formation, blooming flowers, pollinated but still immature seed capsules and fruit reaching maturity in addition to older, empty seed capsules from previous seasons. That’s every phase of reproduction happening at once. You have to love that the grandmothers, the husks that have released their seeds, just hang around to enjoy it all once they’re done!

 Artichokes, 16x20 oil on panel

Artichokes grow wild on the plateaus I have walked my whole life. 4 to 6 feet tall, they are majestic plants and place bursts of purple above the scrub when they flower. The plant is a variety of thistle and has been cultivated regionally as a food since the 8th century BC. I remember my mother teaching our relatives visiting from New England how to pluck a leaf off a cooked artichoke, dip it a lemony Hollandaise Sauce she made, pull it through their teeth and toss what remained into the quickly filling bowl in the middle of the table. Wild, beautiful and delicious - who doesn’t love the artichoke?