Fifty two years ago, I was five years old. It was 1966 and my parents took us on an epic road trip. We drove roundtrip around the country from ocean to ocean. We started from our home in Connecticut to Louisiana, on to Pasadena, up to San Francisco, through a Wyoming dude ranch and Yellowstone Park, up through the Badlands, and finally entered Canada to come back into the United States through Niagra Falls. It took a full month; visiting family, many national parks and monuments, and driving countless miles. In fact, seeing our national parks was one of the reasons for the trip.
Memories of a Lifetime
I became friends with a horse called Big Red. I felt the thrill of seeing wildlife up close in Yellowstone; yes, the bears came right up to the cars because everyone fed them, us included. I still enjoy this particular thrill as we have visited Yellowstone many times. I remember the baking heat of the desert where I suffered a bad case of heat stroke making my parents stop at the next A&W for root beer and ice! I recall the damp, cool winds off the Pacific Ocean, and the clogging smog in Pasadena. I remember wondering if the endless horizon of the Great Plains ever ended (what five year old wouldn’t?!). I remember how scared I was leaning over a fence to see a rushing river churning into a waterfall right below me (Did my parents really let me do that?!) and how mad I got at my father because I didn’t want to sit on Chief Yellowhorse’s lap for a photograph. I am sure there were many other wonderful things I just don’t recall, but for a five year old I certainly remember quite a bit.
I believe that trip instilled in me my passion for our country’s wild lands and a strong wanderlust that has kept me traveling around this country and the world for fifty two years. I have gathered memories and images of plants, animals, birds and landscapes. I always endeavor to imprint in my mind a sense of the ‘place’ even as my eyes are focusing on the plant on the trail, the bird in the tree, the stone under my foot or the animal in the meadow.
I am currently working on a show entitled Earth, Air, Fire & Water; Balancing on the Edge. It is a series of four groups of four paintings showing how all things are connected and how those connections keep us in balance. It is my fervent hope that we can maintain that balance but the works are also acknowledging that so many essential parts of the whole are balancing on a very precarious edge.
An opportunity came up about a month ago to drive my niece’s car from San Francisco back to the East Coast. I started to feel a buzz of excitement. A ‘knowing’ that I had to do this. I quickly said yes and that ‘knowing’ turned into a tour of national parks, monuments and whatever else catches my attention along a northern route. It just felt so right, a bit of a ‘full circle’ kind of right.
I will be gathering more material for my upcoming show but on a bigger scale I have been gathering material my entire life. Every wild subject I paint is from my own experiences and encounters. It is a journey I have been on for a long while now, but until recently my purpose was softly unfocused. I was still seeking to clarify my own self-understanding. I believe I have finally found my simple purpose, my life’s work so to speak. And at the same time my voice. I am creating my own American Anthology; painting my love of all things wild, voicing my fears that so much of it will disappear and sharing my hopes that my work will inspire and instill in others a shared goal to help preserve and protect all that I hold so dear.
Through an Artist’s Eyes
I know that many people will never have the chance to see much of our public wild lands. I hope that through my eyes and my art you might have the chance to travel with me, to see the land as I see it and join me on my road trip. And not just the epic landscapes, but the amazing birds, animals and plants that live in those landscapes and rely on that habitat for survival. Our public wild places belong to all of us no matter how far away they are, no matter if you will never see them. They are diverse, awe-inspiring, and unforgettable but their future is extremely fragile. Their continued survival lies in all of our hands.
Leaving San Francisco on Friday, July 13
I hope you will join me on my journey. I invite you to follow along with me on My American Anthology – The Northern Tour.