Artist Statement for ‘Forest Story’
We are so lucky to be living here in this little valley of the Sparkill Creek. I’ve been painting the creek, marshes and mountains in this area for many years, and frequently take long walks in our forested areas. In this series of paintings I am hoping to spark a greater appreciation of the forests that surround us and contribute so much to our well-being, and with it some commitment to their preservation. Many of the paintings may seem dark and full of premonition, but they exist to celebrate the forest as the dynamic creature it is filled with vitality – and even perhaps a touch of the sacred that ancient peoples perceived in the great forests of the past.
Our relationship with trees has been inspiring artists since man’s first markings. In paleolithic rock art recently studied in Utah and estimated to have been carved approximately 10-14,000 years ago, and in various representations found in ancient Egyptian, Roman and Chinese art, artists have created their own symbolic images of trees. More recently, in both European and American art trees have been depicted in a plethora of styles from extremely realistic to very abstract.
Across history, trees have been worshiped and valued for their beauty as well as their utility and considered symbolic and sacred in many cultures. Their similarities to the human form have not been missed and recent science tells us that they form “communities”, communicate with one another, share nutrients, have an early warning system set up to resist pests and disease, and release compounds into the air well documented as therapeutic to human health and well-being. Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ has been a part of the national health program in Japan since 1982 when the forest ministry coined the term “taking in the forest atmosphere” and it is a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Forests are often called the “lungs” of the earth since they produce the oxygen that we breathe while absorbing significant amounts of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Nevertheless, we have been destroying our forests at an alarming rate, cutting them down for lumber and to expand agriculture, grazing, mining and real estate development, while climate change itself now poses perhaps the greatest threat to their existence. The increasing temperatures, drought, insect infestations and invasive species resulting from disrupted climate are all threatening the forests that remain. We must stop and ask ourselves what happens when the forests are gone.
These paintings are not intended as depictions of specific places. They’re more about a general sense of things. I urge everyone to go out for a walk in the woods on a regular basis and experience that sense. We have so much to enjoy here – and to protect.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” — Baba Dioum, Senegalese forestry engineer.
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