The paintings in this collection took their first breaths during spring residencies at PLAYA in Summer Lake, OR.
They reflect my experience of entering a vast ancient landscape, where raptors have soared and hunted for millennia.
I came to PLAYA to explore birds of prey – to notice their daily rhythms and ways of being in this high desert habitat. I was grateful for time to paint, unfettered by other obligations. I left behind my unhelpful fixation on the next horrifying slice of news.
My awareness of the passage of time sharpened, as my senses awakened to the natural rhythms of this wide open place and its inhabitants – the shifting weather patterns, the emergence of tiny leaves on the willows, Sandhill Cranes announcing their arrival with their haunting cries, floating toward and beyond, over long stretches of sky.
It was impossible not to notice the enormous sky, or be astonished by massive shifting cloud formations. I fell into a daily rhythm of looking skyward. Following a Red-Tailed hawk’s flight down the snowy ramparts of Winter Ridge and across the lake to the eastern blue horizon, I noticed the ease with which it soared the distance of the shallow lake and back, scanning the earth below.
The light was constantly changing, finding its way to earth in shifting moods and hues. I felt the absolute stillness of the Great Horned Owl pair in the yellow tangle of willow branches at the nearby wildlife refuge. On my final day, I was witness to a spectacular show of impossible aerobatics at the hunting ground of a half-dozen Kestrels, who hovered midair below the ramparts, before plunging to earth in pursuit of prey.
I was born into the sheltering fragrance of Douglas fir trees north of Seattle. It is in my bones. The title of this exhibition, The Long View, Up Close, comes from what shifted in me when exposed to the ways of raptors in this ancient wild expanse of land, water and sky. It loosened something in me that needed untethering.
What does it mean to take the ‘long view’ in a world that needs our love and attention?
I believe proximity and attention help us to care. What is there to learn about taking the long view – without disconnecting? What moves us to take action? Can we expand our imaginations to access the wisdom of wild intermediaries, whether they be birds, the wind, or the black coyote…?
I found myself soothed, gazing across the evaporating lake, watching ghostly forms of alkali dust gather and ascend to the heavens. Unto dust we shall return…
Bethany Rowland
July 2019