To say I was not immediately struck by inspiration would be an understatement.
My prompt for this year’s Call and Response* exhibit was “Quiet, Noisy.” How in the world could I put the sense of hearing on a flat surface with paint? How to translate audio into visual? But soon enough, I was assaulted by the answer: I happened to be driving near the Portland Airport when a military plane took off from PDX and the afterburner kicked in… it was deafening. I decided to contrast that with the silent flight of a hawk, often seen soaring over the fields as we drive up and down the Willamette valley.
My first sketch was for a triptych, made to look as if the observer is in a cathedral, the ultimate quiet sanctuary, looking out. The backdrop was quintessential Willamette Valley, a lone “seed tree” fir silhouetted on a clearcut hillside above a field of grass stubble. Next came some detail studies of the hawk:
Once I started getting ready to paint, the reality of a triptych dawned: I have no place to paint big enough to allow me to work on three canvases at once, which I would have to do to keep the colors consistent. So, down to one canvas, which would be simpler anyway, but sticking with the window arch idea… maybe making the entire piece a “window” done as if it were leaded glass?
But then I decided that I didn’t like the arch or the curving “glass” pieces, so I painted them out… or tried to… So now we’re down to the simple sanctuary of nature, no cathedral in sight…
Next came the jet, which interestingly enough was called a “raptor” according to my Google research. Hmm… possible title? The underlying glass bits, which I had outlined in ink markers, bled through, even through several layers of thick gesso. This “pentimento” became echoes of the jet con trail. The jet and the bird are also going in opposite directions, both facing off the canvas, but the con trail(s) and furrows in the field below curve back to the center of the painting, the conflict of the quiet and the noisy. Coincidence? Works for me!
Carolyn Kindell, my neighbor, is an avid birder, and she shared several bird books to ponder for reference. I learned that hawks glide over fields listening intently for mice and voles moving underground… as a “hidden Mickey” kind of a joke, I had already added a tiny field mouse in the grass beneath the hawk. When she saw the work in progress, (she’s my neighbor and a frequent visitor, impossible to keep it secret), Carolyn said “The mouse lives another day, but the hawk goes hungry.” And possibly the hawk goes profoundly deaf, after the afterburner event. I decided that the mouse needed a bigger role, so I detailed in his little home entry and made him more obvious.
Finished 2/12/2014. The painting is now hanging in La Sells Stewart gallery on the OSU campus, surrounded by the responses of our seven Call & Response member artists, plus three guest artists. I am thrilled with their responses. If you’re in Corvallis, please take the opportunity to see how these artists chose to respond to my call. It’s free!