Friday, October 14, 2011

Dry Bend

Oil on board, 8" x 8"
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Rummaging in a storage room yesterday I came upon a small box of things picked up on walks in the mid to late 1990's, when we lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. Little twists of juniper wood mingled with small stones, dried leaves, seed pods and the like. Most would take it for the nest of a packrat. I guess it is--I'm the rat and these are my treasures, each dusty item a talisman that transports me to another place and time.

A fragile little shard of dried mud, curled up at the edges. It brought me to this place: a turn in the dry bed of the Paria River in southern Utah on a hot August afternoon. Walking in the memory of moisture, my footsteps crackled like cornflakes on the parched clay--the noise startling in the absolute silence. It felt like no one else was on the planet.

The Oregonian in me had to resist brushing a cloud into that sky while painting this. But I wanted the spareness I remember about that land--the great vacuum of space--the clarity of light--the beautiful bare bones of the earth, self-contained, indifferent to human presence. My memory brings back many such cloudless days--a sky so intensely blue it was palpable. As if I might reach into it and grab handfuls of color.


Pierre Raby said...

Thanks Don for sharing so many aspects of your creative journey, you are such an inspiration. I enjoyed reading this post. Beautiful scene in this painting. (The title of your lemon painting made me think of the movie" Meetings with remarkable men",an autobiographic film of Gurdjief).

Richard Hunter said...

Hi Don,

"Dry Bend" generated memories of the week I spent hiking and camping in Arches National Park in 1983. That, too, was in August and without a cloud or a whisper of air moving. A truly remarkable place worth another visit.


Anonymous said...

how beautifully written Don for a delightful painting... dos collecting branches and leaves and moss also make me into a pack rat or have i not made the grade yet? ;)

Sonya Johnson said...

Love this post, Don - both the painting and your words to go with it. I just got back from Moab, and experienced the same feelings as I hiked alone in the side canyons and washes. The stillness is amazing, isn't it? I can never get enough of that!

Don Gray said...

Thank you, Pierre for being so encouraging and supportive. I'll look up Gurdjief's film.

Don Gray said...

Hi Rick--the desert southwest is so amazing, isn't it? There's a profound spirit in those silent places.

Don Gray said...

Thanks, Rahina. You sound like a first-rate pack rat to grade! :^)

Don Gray said...

Sonya, your deep love of the southwestern landscape resonates in your work. Yes, the silence and vastness is overwhelming and spiritual. Thanks for your thoughtful note.