Perhaps no one more than the poet, Ted Hughes, vested meaning and metaphor in the crow. For me, crows have been the source of childhood memories and are as beautiful and mysterious as black rainbows. Tender and cruel and brilliant, they carry their own shadow.
Yesterday (March 20) I saw a good dozen in singles and pairs returning to Squire Valleevue Farm. By the end of the month small flocks will arrive to begin the mating and battle rituals. And by the first of May nests will fill with black rainbows.
The lone crow (above) did not hesitate against strong headwinds, coming to rest in the swaying white pines, twisted and reaching, entreating in welcome, reminiscent of a Kona painting.
6:30 a.m., May 28, fog had settled into the dunes north of the small town of Pentwater, Michigan. It was a phenomenon unlike any I had seen in the forty-seven years I had walked these eastern shores of Lake Michigan. Occasionally, fog banks would descend obscuring the contours of the landscape but this time fog clung to the division between each dune, exposing only the tops of white pine and sporadic clumps of tag alder. As remarkably, three quarters of the scene and subsequent image were sky, tinged with subtle, almost imperceptible hues of color as it spreads its fingers across the dunes down to the beach.
It brings the quality of “impermanence” to mind – a key dimension of the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi. Within minutes the long fingers had receded, replaced somewhat ironically by the forest; its own beauty transient and ineluctably transformed as day ascended.
This is one of the images from my 2011 exhibit at the Butler Institute of Art. It has been a popular limited edition print over the last eight years but this is the first occasion I’ve printed it as a large canvas (40″x60″). We have it on view for one more week (thru Sat. Feb. 25) at the gallery.
Pentwater, Michigan, May 28, 2008 C. Geoffrey Baker
After printing this image I tried to imagine whether the scene would have appealed to three of my favorite artists, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth, each whose work may be considered an example of modern American realism. I think the almost surreal landscape would have attracted Wyeth; the nostalgic throwback, Wood; and the solitude of the scene, (especially the isolation of the towering outbuilding), Hopper. I mention these artists because, for many years I’ve been drawn to their work and suspect it has influenced the way I see landscapes and architecture.
This outbuilding resides on the property of Carsten Burfiend, the first settler of Leelanau County, Mr. Burfiend built two farms in the late 19th century just north of Glen Arbor. The farm is closed though restored and sits between a spine of dunes to the east and Lake Michigan less than a mile west.
I printed this recently for the first time as a large format (48″x38″) using archival pigment ink and canvas. It is on display in Still Point’s exhibit space at the moment.
Early February provided a perfect day to photograph smoke stacks at the former J&L Steel melt shop and rolling mill on the west side of the Cuyahoga river. Purchased from “Otis Steel”, J&L’s mill was home to thousands of steelworkers and millwrights since 1942. Over several generations the facility has been through numerous incarnations, the most recent of which was its acquisition by LTV Corp. (a consolidation with Republic Steel in 1984), a shutdown in 2002 pursuant to ISG’s purchase and finally the eventual acquisition by Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal and the mill’s reopening in 2004.
The billowing “smoke” animating the image is really only steam as the morning’s low air temperature (-10°) created ideal conditions for condensation. The shot reminded me a little of a Braque or Picasso Cubist painting … each of the pieces reassembled, seemingly creating more than the sum of its parts. There is something ironically anthropomorphic about the structure with its jaws turned skyward and hot breath billowing in successive bursts. I resisted the temptation to include the sprawling length of the mill in a landscape format. And finally, rather than producing this as a black and white image, which would have reduced the image to a study in “shapes,” I retained the colors to add tonality and dimension.
Not a sound at the marsh today (January 1st, 2017). Hundreds of acres covered with a thin sheet of ice, perforated only by tiny islands of marsh grass and dead pin oaks. The few remaining geese and ducks have moved to the open water of lakes and rivers. Not a sound, not even “the sweep of easy wind …”.
Groves of dead oak still stand in silence after more than fifty years, gray with age but unaffected otherwise. Today’s blue sky and early afternoon light accentuated the bleached wood and made for a dramatic black and white image close to shore.
The blanket of snow last year (see “Sentries” https://stillpoint-gallery.com) contrasts with this first landscape of 2017 – ineffable beauty waiting for us in the starkness of the season.
“Solitude gives birth to the original in us – to beauty unfamiliar and perilous … to poetry.” Thomas Mann