With my initial entry I included a photograph of a tree stump, which may seem a bit odd or arbitrary. But, in fact, I selected the image very deliberately.
A couple of years ago, the area where I live was hit with a freak snowstorm in October. It came so early that the leaves on deciduous trees were still green and supple and hadn’t begun to fall, and the snow adhered to the leaves, accumulating in great piles on every branch. The abnormally heavy load brought down a great many trees and, with those trees, inevitably, power lines, causing power outages for about a week. Crews worked diligently to clear away the fallen trees and get electricity back to us. Once power had been restored to all areas, the crews continued to work, identifying and lopping off weak branches and removing old and diseased trees altogether. For months, the roar of chain saws resounded through the neighborhood, and, while driving, you would often unexpectedly come across work crews on the roads.
A nearby state park, which I have frequented for years, suffered a lot of damage from the storm and some magnificent trees had to be taken down. After the initial clean-up was complete, the work continued at the park for months. I would often watch the crews taking down trees and removing branches and wonder how they were determining what had to go. I was sort of mystified as seemingly healthy trees were selected for removal or for pruning so extreme it left the tree distorted and unattractive. I’m not a botanist, so I trusted that the experts had identified trees that were compromised by disease or age. Then, ever after that first year, the crews have returned annually with the mild weather to begin the chain sawing. It now appears that their goal is to clear away all trees that abut the roadways, thereby establishing a twenty to thirty foot margin of uninterrupted lawn. It has saddened me to witness the destruction of some of my favorite trees at the park. I definitely experience a palpable sense of loss when I walk along the transformed roadways. I can’t help wondering if the park personnel haven’t gone a bit overboard, removing robust trees that really pose no threat to the public. I guess a downed tree could block the roadway temporarily, inconveniencing park visitors for a day or two, but does that justify removing so many mature, healthy trees.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that we had lost a cluster of several trees near the entranceway to one of the park’s pavilions. I shook my head and grumbled to myself. Then I walked over and began to examine the stumps left like stepping stones in the grass. They were really beautiful. I took out my camera and took a number of shots of them. I particularly like the image I selected to include with my initial entry in that it is both recognizable and abstract at the same time. The minor revelation that I experienced was that I had found beauty in a spot where I had least expected to find it, in fact, at a location that I associated with loss and unsightliness.
And here’s my point. I’ve discovered on the internet the exceptional work of many uncelebrated and unrepresented artists, writers and photographers. Often, I’ll stumble across the blog or website of a talented unknown while trawling through images to use as my desktop background (which I change every few days) or when I’m researching the art of a specific period, culture or location. Many of these artists are quietly pursuing their craft without hope of recognition, working solely for personal satisfaction. I myself count among my friends many extremely talented artists whose dedication to their art form, whatever it may be, is astounding, the results of their efforts being commendable. Generally, these artists are employed in other areas to earn a living and pursue their art during evenings and on weekends. And yet, even struggling against this handicap, they manage to produce work of high quality. So, my thinking is that serious artwork can be found in the most unexpected places if you keep an open mind and are willing to put in the effort to search around a bit. Hopefully my blog will serve as one of those unexpected places.
With all this talk of parks and trees, I thought I should include one of my landscapes. This work, View from Tymor (Oil on Canvas, 46" X 52"), was painted about a decade ago. Though I’m definitely not a landscape painter, I do on rare occasion choose to record a piece of impressive or interesting scenery, usually with the intention of breaking out of a rut and perhaps making some technical progress. I must admit that I find painting a landscape less demanding than producing my figurative work and approach a landscape as a pleasant change of pace. I feel freer to take liberties with a landscape; this one I thought of as a symphony which I could organize and restructure into related zones and rhythms of my design.