Sunday, November 8, 2015

Golden Queen Anne's Lace

Only a barbarian mind 
Could fail to see the flower

The year has turned. Light drains out of the world from an unseen opening in the lower sky.  Due to the deepening slant of the sun's rays there is a golden edge to all that is underfoot: grasses, fallen leaves, acorns. The air is thick with this glow. Everywhere an entire day lived close to dusk forces a slight shift in focus. The radiant eye above still watches, but this stare has grown less intense and it is now possible to stare back up at it without blinking.

Cooler now, the darkness spreads as shadow. I wander quietly, slipping past tree, field, and mailbox, crouching down to examine the wide, dry feathers of the thin, dead blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace transformed from soft white lace doilies to bird’s nests of brown brittle stars. On close examination, each star bursts forth from the center like a July 4th firework frozen in time.

 As I walk, I am everywhere in the company of these silent, seeded creatures. Clusters of collapsed canopies backlit by grass and gravel accent field, rock and roadside.

Whether perched as in a gathering of miniature trees, or as a single dark body, their slow, swiveling heads create a silhouette that disrupts the sun’s dominion, existing as shadow without being shadow. And yet, each unique form casts a shadow as well.

In late September while walking through downtown Graton on my way to the Joe Rodota trail I paid a visit to a building-wide open studio at Atelier One. This two-story red brick building has provided local artists with affordable work space since 1987. You can look at the artists and some of their work here:

While browsing the hallways, I was drawn to a painting on the lower level of the artist workspace that reminded me of the brittle, brown fists of Queen Anne’s lace gone to seed. The painting is the work of local artist Becky Wells. You can find some of her excellent work here:

Hung on the walls of her second floor studio were several other paintings on the theme. My favorite one was titled “Golden Queen Anne’s Lace”. The painting highlights the gold of autumn sunlight, the tight, dark, shadowy vessels of the flower gone to seed, and also small white airy hints of the flower’s celebrated past, or perhaps magnificent, longed-for future as the seeds of a new spring season are sown. 

Becky has integrated a deep texture to the painting by use of collage and overlay. Like nature, the painting is layered and rich with detail. Becky's images chatter joyfully with the morning’s golden arrival while at the same time encompass the autumn day’s approaching dusk and mounting shadow.  

"The painting is a response to walking in the field of Queen Anne's Lace in Forestville," explains Becky. "I was touched by the varied forms the flower takes as it moves along its journey of one season of life.  So many single stems hold the flowers bursting outward then inward then downward to seed. An often overlooked botanical beauty, it quietly and gently takes in sun and soil and a tad of water to become the spidery, nesting flower I've grown to love and paint."

In his book Becoming Animal David Abram writes “Each being that we perceive enacts a subtle integration within us, even as it alters our prior organization. The sensing body is like an open circuit that completes itself only in things, in others, in the surrounding earth. Only by entering into the relation with others do we effect our own integration and coherence. Such others might be people, or they might be wetlands, or works of art”

Becky’s painting now hangs in my writing studio where inspiration and observation intersect on a daily basis to form words, and those same words intersect to form worlds. Perception alters, and with it the earth. Seeing is a steady trading of myself here with the things seen there within a field of feeling. Outside the window where a pane of glass has been newly set within the window frame, I notice cool, gray clouds flattening the sky as November rains begin.