narratives on paintings


JUDICIAL PROCEEDING pictures a sample of nine crows from the annual late summer gathering of crow tribes in a valley oak canopy in California. Each bird recognizes its colleagues by their individual utterances, tonalities of voice and beak clicking. A family of feral swine files through the meadow below.

HOPE ARKANSAS is a birder’s fond dream of the abundant return from extinction of the “Lord-God Bird”, the ivory-billed woodpecker. Wishful thinking springs eternal with regard to this bird, an icon of the Southern cypress swamps. The old cypresses have all been cut down during the past century and the swamps turned into soybean fields, ensuring the ivory-bill’s doom. Nonetheless, every decade or so, some true believer claims to have seen one of these birds risen from the dead.

KONOCTI erupts in the distance, while a California condor mantles a recently deceased pronghorn antelope. The scene could date from Mount Konocti’s last eruption thousands of years ago, or it could be a picture of a future in which these two species have reclaimed their former territory.

TARANGIRI in Northern Tanzania is a dry season refuge for elephants and plains game.
Along the banks of the inches deep Tarangiri River, a saddle-billed stork probes for prey accompanied by an opportunistic Nile monitor. The lizard often seizes any small animal the stork flushes. Between them they tug a brown house snake.

FARALLON is a vital example of recovery through stewardship of a formerly heavily exploited habitat. Market egg hunters in the early 20th Century almost succeeded in destroying the sea bird colonies on these austere islands off the Golden Gate. Their nesting grounds now protected, tufted puffins and many other species are now recovering.

LOOMERY is a nesting colony of common murres on the Farallon Islands. Eggers from San Francisco break every egg they find, ensuring that the birds will lay fresh replacements, which are then piled up and carted off to the marketplace.

GENET & COCTEAU is a portrait inspired by author Edmund White’s reference in his biography of Jean Genet to the resemblance of Genet to a molting bantam rooster and Cocteau to an aging cockatoo. Here, the two friends visit the gardens of Versailles.

KLAMATH, a river/marsh/lake complex that is an icon of the West’s destruction by the Bureau of Reclamation, still supports diminished bird populations, but its salmon run has dried up. These birds seem to be in some alarm and doubt about the pesticide-contaminated fish held by the kingfisher.

SAN JOAQUIN, the Central Valley of California, is a place carpeted by industrial agriculture. The result is that all its inflowing rivers have been dammed, and its soils, aquifers and air have been thoroughly contaminated by herbicides, pesticides, methane and hydrocarbon emissions. Even the San Joaquin River itself, the mother-river of the valley has been drained bone dry for decades. Now a token water flow has been released from an upstream dam. Endemic yellow-billed magpies hover questioningly over a cloud layer of fecal dust and methane above an industrial feed lot.










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