Animal Spirits - Finding Connections
Animals are almost always the subjects for my art. Sometimes I’ll portray an animal that’s new to me, such as the bat-eared fox, or one that I’m aware of but don’t know much about – the platypus and Tasmanian Devil come to mind. In either case, I’m most likely to research the animal before I begin working on a piece of art featuring her. I enjoy finding out about them, but I also believe knowing more than simply what the animal looks like makes for a better piece.
One of the types of information I often search for is the spiritual significance of the animal in cultures which are a part of my heritage, specifically, Celtic and Slavic.
But just because my heritage says an animals has a particular significance, doesn’t mean it holds true for me.
A good example is the crow. Many cultures have a negative view of this bird. But that doesn’t work for me. I’m fortunate to have enjoyed contact with crows, including keeping one young one for six months while he re-grew his wing and tail feathers so he could be returned to the wild. (This was in my days as a wildlife rehabber on the corvid team.) He was charming, engaging, and intelligent. I loved Bart.
Also, crows were frequent visitors to the black walnut trees growing along the road passing in front of our property. They’d carry the nuts to the highest branches and drop them on the road to break them. Sometimes it took more than one drop, but they didn’t give up – they knew the technique would work. Very clever, I’d say!
In any case, I choose parts of my heritage’s traditions that feel right to me and combine them with my own experiences of the animal to create text and select symbols to include in my artwork. I think of this process as finding my personal connections with animals and their spirits.
Badgers are animals I’ve never seen in real life, but I’ve read quite a bit about them and feel drawn to them. I remember seeing a video taken by a ‘badger cam’ in a badger family’s burrow (called a ‘sett,’ by the way). They’re nocturnal animals, and when then get up at dusk neatly make their beds by fluffing the piles of grass on which they slept. As soon as I saw that clip, I was hooked on badgers.
In this piece, I show them looking at the moon (an obvious depiction of their nocturnal nature) and show the night sky filled with stars and the Milky Way. The Milky Way feels both mysterious and spiritual to me. There are a few fireflies around the animals, sprinkles of night time light I remember from my childhood.
This is the text I wrote along the high edges of the swells in the landscape’s ground:
“cautious, peace-loving Philistine who loves more than all else her home, family, and comfort”
“I can teach you two things in this life – to dig deep and to love your home.” (Badger – or BROC – to the young King Arthur)
“cousin of Reynard whom he uselessly tries to convince to return to the part of righteousness”