During 2020 and most of 2021, my artist wife Lin and I spent most of our time at home on our farm. We were still creating in our respective studio spaces, but had much more free time. Most of the 7+ acres of land we have is meadow, wetland, and woods, that we let grow wild. Our show schedule keeps us very busy but during this time we were able to walk the acres regularly. As we explored the thickets and the tall grasses, we discovered a variety of natural treasures – snake skins, turtle shells, downed bird nests, deer bones, interesting rocks and feathers. It began to become a collection.
With all of this free time to work in the studio, I started thinking about still-life photography — not something I typically do. I started with flowers and grasses that Lin had dried, then moved on to more animate subjects. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say with these remnants, so I just allow myself to create instinctively. Ultimately, I became drawn to an antlered deer skull, a nest with three eggs, and a turtle shell. The arrangement happened quickly, I tried not to overthink it.
I liked the result, but wasn’t satisfied that it conveyed what I wanted. Or maybe, I just didn’t know why I made the image, so I just let it be. Fast forward a year and I started to look at the image again and realized something about it I missed earlier. The three elements in the image – nest, turtle shell, and deer skull, all are symbolic of protection, safety, guardianship. The nest protects the eggs, the shell protects the turtle, and the antlers protect the deer. Subconsciously, was I looking for the reassurance that life would get back to normal? There’s multiple interpretations of this arrangement of objects.
Esthetically, I was still struggling with the image. I tend to equate symbolism with mythology, and mythology with historic images. So I decided to give the image the feeling of an old sepia toned glass plate photograph. I found this rendering satisfying and after several weeks of “sitting” on it, was happy to go ahead and print it. I’ve titled it – The Guardian.