IMAGINARY PORTRAITS: ICONS FOR A SUSTAINABLE WORLD
There are many narratives we can tell to explain the nature of the world. We are all familiar with explanations of the world in terms of competition and survival of the fittest. This is one dynamic that empirically exists and we are all familiar with instances of this dynamic in our everyday lives. But the world is a complex place and perhaps we need to look at more than one story to gain a deeper understanding of its true multifaceted nature—stories that seem to be in conflict with each other, but are all true, nonetheless. Many of the works in this show are inspired by this observation: on a quieter, more microscopic level the world is the ongoing consequence of myriad acts of intentional collaboration among elements that show not only a willingness to be in relationship with another, but the capacity to stay in relationship.
Lately, when I look beyond the surface of the world I see manifestations of group collaboration everywhere— in the biomes and micro-biomes that we call soil, forest, river and our own mammalian bodies. And on a microscopic level, relational collaboration abounds. What else is a molecule than a number of atoms that have somehow compromised their own natures in order to become something more complex together? “Bluebirds” is a painting that imagines this collaborative nature in a fantastical way with a woman and a nest of bluebirds.
In “Bluebirds”, a woman’s head is the nest for bluebirds. She provides a part of their habitat by being the habitat. She and the birds emerge from a scintillating background of pattern, not unlike the rich molecular fabric that contains the formative potential of the world. That background itself emerges from a less articulated, dreamier realm of formative possibilities that exist further from consciousness, but still very much in the realm of possibility.
We may not wear nests on our heads, but we are to some degree habitats if only for the micro-biomes and biomes that make up our bodies. Beyond that, most of us engage our energies in tending habitats for other life when we cultivate our gardens and compost piles, when we establish homes and care for our children and pets, when we provide bee-hives and butterfly gardens, when we work to insure a world with intact natural systems. While there is plenty of evidence to support the idea of survival of the fittest— the world as an eternal cut-throat struggle for survival—there exists at the same time another dynamic. This cooperative, relational, committed dynamic is equally important to our understanding of the essential nature of the world. It is important to recognize it, and find ways to align with it as we live our lives.