When I lived in L.A., I did ink paintings on thin Chinese paper of the plants in my back yard. In arid Los Angeles, plants were organisms that had to be tended--each one deserved care and attention; each one was testimony to one's presence as a caretaker and observer. The plant world was an artefact of human presence. So I did portraits, you might say, of the eggplant leaves, the tomato plant, the magnificent acanthus.
When I moved to Minnesota, I remember walking up along the steeply rising bank of a creek, following its course up the hill towards its source. When I turned, I was struck--I mean like a blow--by the swarm of green, the thousands on thousands of ranked trees, wild and chaotic, the original occupants of this place, none of whom owed anything to me. A tribe, a great nation.
I could no longer paint plants until I found a way to present them as a visual field. It's only now, 10 years later, that I finally am developing the ability to see individuals in that deep complexity.
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