Capturing Nature

Dan Nuttall, A Bird in the Hand, proposed poster for The Women's Global Call for Climate Justice.
Dan Nuttall, A Bird in the Hand, proposed poster for The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.

When you spend a lot of time around something, anything, you pick up its shape, its various curves, its colour in different lights, its scent, its boundaries from different angles. The more you look, the more you know, the more you can intuit. Think of birds for example. When I look at bird art I can tell how familiar the artist truly is with the species in question. I recently picked up some ceramic nuthatches by Lisa Creskey which were for sale at Craft Ontario on Queen Street, in Toronto. Deceptively simple little “lumps” of clay – as coy as nature herself – they resonate in the hand and stir in the heart.  I have a thing about birds in the hand. I get the same feeling when I look at work by Susie Osler. Osler’s “Objects for the Hand and Heart” are winsome, attentive yearnings brimming with life’s energy. Again, an artist so much at attention that her vocabulary allows the creation of new living things, new and resonant forms of nature.

One day, in Mexico, I looked out my window to see two small forms on the ground. One of the forms flew away – rocketing over the decomposing rock walls of my yard – a Ruddy Ground Dove. The other, I picked up and held as it died – the world above the two of us still captured in its moist reflecting eye.

Palm Tree by Marie Finkelstein
Palm Tree by Marie Finkelstein

I painted my feeling for that bird and gave it a gaze that would allow it to ask for an eternity. Later I proposed the painting as poster for The Women’s Global call for Climate Justice – part of a campaign to raise awareness as a lead up to their conference this fall in Paris, France.

The dove that died had been feeding on the ground under a native Yucatan palm tree. I have spent a lot of time around palm trees – planted a few, cut a few down, drank palm wine, gathered palm seeds, and gazed at them in gob-smacked admiration. Looking at the work of Marie Finkelstein, recently on view at Gallery 1313,  I have the same feeling again. She has spent time gazing and knows the movement of a frond, the slight sway of a trunk, how to make the palm as strong as the sky. How to make a tree formidable in concert with a blazing sun and inky shadows. The show closed yesterday, but Marie’s work may be found online and, does what I feel great artists do  – capture life in their hands and raise it like a glass to our lips, to quench the psyche, our eyes and stomachs and hearts. 

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