Late afternoon sun catches the curves of a grand old arbutus tree reaching out into Campbell Bay on Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada. I want not to move or even shift my gaze for a very long time.
These arbutus trees are stressed by recent dry summers and disease. We may lose them from their small narrow ecosystem. Am I archiving our southwest coast of Canada in my paintings?
The very idea has my hands go clammy and a coolness runs from tailbone up to the very crown of my head.
"What a strange assumption" I, at first, thought! Then, it came up a couple of more times. But now the concept is no longer presented as a question.
“You are creating archival records of these beautiful trees and seascapes!”
It is a concerning accusation, at least by definition.
I am more than a bit squeamish about the idea that my paintings might be considered historical evidence collected to preserve something that no longer exists. I have held higher hopes than this for the influence of these works! I have had no intention of creating historical records with my brush. Instead, I have wanted to create a desire to preserve and protect the land, the sea and our humanity that knowingly or unknowingly rely on them. I want to strengthen our direct relationship and connection with our natural environment, pure and yet not so simple it seems.
Have I failed if the paintings, even before I am dead, even before this fragile environment is damaged beyond repair, are being considered as important historical archival documents?
I paint, not as an act of creating a historical record but as a meditation, an act of mindfulness in appreciation of what is.
Therefore, I beg of you – experience these paintings as reminders of what we need to protect rather than coveted records of something that will likely disappear, through oil spills, through climate change, through our collective lack of regard! A painting is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the real thing – in comparison to you experiencing the ordinary moments in an ordinary day somewhere on the southwest coast of Canada. This I am sure of!
We can do this hard thing! In this I believe.
Mayne Island, B.C., Canada