When we arrived on the planet, each of us was in possession of at least one talent, given as a gift, to see us through life. The expectation was that we would discover the gift and invest in it and use it for the betterment of all mankind. I discovered my gift when I was in the second grade at Sandston Elementary School. During art period, we were all given a hunk of clay and asked to make something. My classmates set out to make pots and cups and saucers that would be glazed and fired in a kiln. The teacher became agitated as I just sat there, discontent with making cups and saucers. Eventually, I decided to make a duck and shortly thereafter I found myself literally hanging from the end of my teacher’s arm as I was taken first to the principal, the assistant principal, the librarian, the cafeteria workers and finally the janitor so they could all view me and my wonderful life-like duck. The reason it took so long to make the duck was because I was unsure about the shape of a duck’s foot: how many toes and how many knuckles - five and three? I couldn’t remember from a previous sighting at Byrd Park Lake earlier in the year. I just never noticed the feet, and I didn’t want to make an inaccurate duck. The gift was art and the passion was getting the animal correct.
Collectively, we were all given the gift of planet Earth. It has sustained humans and wild species whose numbers are beyond comprehension. On planet Earth, the majesty of the biochemistry involved in one tiny cell communicating with another cannot even be accurately comprehended, let alone the complexity of how Mother Nature sustains herself and somehow makes it all work. But She has for billions of years. As a species, we spend endless hours discussing the whichness of what and debating the relative purity of thought as we systematically destroy the planet. It is our responsibility to cherish and help preserve the gifts we were all given “… the pale blue dot… the only home we have known …”, as Carl Sagan put it.
I paint mostly wildlife and the natural places they inhabit on the pale blue dot to cause others to look, to see, see things they have never truly seen before and to discover how many toes and knuckles a duck has. Maybe if they see, they will care and stop debating the whichness of what and help rescue this planet and save this gift we were all given.
If not, maybe we will have only the paintings that are being created, by me and others, to remind us how it used to be before it all disappeared.