One of the motivations for starting this blog was to go back and organize years of my work so that I could reflect on the themes that have remained constant over time. It also gave me the opportunity to post old work as a visual backdrop for viewers to see how I arrived at my present.
I think StarlingNight has been in the making all my life. The image of the starling has significance to me on so many levels starting with my childhood. Even as an 8-year-old, I knew many people detested this flock bird, and my father was no exception. He loved the cardinals that frequented the feeders he so faithfully filled. The starlings would swarm in occasionally, chasing the polite & lovely songbirds away. My brothers were instructed to shoot at "the black devils" with their BB guns. Before they could set their sights I would run outside and scare them away.
I always thought starlings were beautiful—not really black but magically iridescent, with sprinkles of turquoise, ochre, and alizarin crimson, like holiday cookie decorations. And in the winter, the markings became white polka dots like heavy snow flakes and distant stars.
Later at age 20, in a summery 3000 mile drive across the country, I witnessed my first murmuration somewhere in the Midwest. I was transfixed — I thought I was seeing a tornado, only the darkness lifted off the ground and swarmed in magnetized clouds of swirling designs. It was as if the sky had become an immense Wooly Willy backdrop and some invisible force was holding the magnetic wand. These formations were in continuous movement which never repeated in design until it floated away out of my field of vision. It still ranks as one of the most spectacular natural wonders that I have ever experienced.
When I realized that this is what starlings do, I felt even more validated for loving them for their beautiful plumage. Why murmurations occur and how they perform in such seamless perfection is still not precisely understood by scientists. It remains a mystery. Even when the why of this event is fully known, it will remain magical.
In StarlingNight, the 14 starlings are iconic of my parents, my 11 siblings, and me. Even as a child I felt very protective of them — of the starlings, as well as my family. We were like a flock of starlings — noisy, noticeable, & numerous.
I wanted the landscape setting to be suggestive of the present walk I take almost every evening, even though it is generalized to represent all the tree-lined streets I hold in my memory. Past & present, birds and setting, are interwoven by the network of dabs & strokes of opacity & transparency. This painting was difficult for me to say: You are finished, release me.
I have often thought that my life can be measured by the number of miles I have walked, especially in the moonlight. I have never ceased to marvel at the everyday natural world and its fragile & sometimes, malevolent, balance. There is so much beauty in the ordinary, and the continuous movement of all living things sweeps me along in the knowledge that I must keep moving & changing also. In the process of living, I often lose hope & inspiration which I need desperately in order to be productive. But then, sometimes, I discover something serendipitously— like seeing that a black starling is full of color & light—or that on a fortuitous, star-filled walk, all my feeling for life can be distilled into one smoky & luminous night.