Are you in or are you out? It’s a relative question and the name of this painting. When we were teenagers, being “in” meant you were part of the “in crowd”; you were popular, part of a group. In 2020, being “in” tags us all, young and old, as part of a popular group, people who care about others.
In this Covid-19 Pandemic, being “in”, means staying home and wearing a mask when you must go out and be among other people. Being “in” is being selfless and putting yourself at risk: working in hospitals, on public transportation, in essential retail stores, pharmacies, and mail facilities, while wearing a mask, not touching your face, and washing your hands often. This mantra, “wear a mask, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands often,” is the equivalent of the public service announcement “stop, drop, and roll” to prevent extensive burns if you catch on fire; it can save your life.
So how does all this relate to a painting of a fictional space with a heron and an unknown bird-like creature soaring above a ring that seems to hover over a murky pool?
As I keep socially distant, like many, I take walks, lots of walks. In March of 2020, I moved to live on a peninsula in mid-coast Maine where birds and waterfowl are varied and many. I never set out to become a bird-watcher but I’d have to have to walk around with blinders on, not to be one. There are flocks of terns, ducks, and geese, and loners like the heron; it stands near or in shallow water and patiently waits for fish to come to it. In contrast, the eagles and cormorants, who are seen both in groups and solo, fly high to seek their prey, sometimes they hover inches above the water, and often they dive in creating great splashes.
This painting is part of a series of allegorical works, Focus and Flux, in which these surreal water and landscapes present questions and give the viewer material from which they can glean answers of their own making. What’s going on? What is that, a bird? Why is there a ring? Why did she, me, paint this?
Flux, is change, fluidity, mutability. My how the world has changed in 2020. Some of us, the “in crowd”, are like the heron. We are staying on the edge, patiently waiting (well maybe not so patiently) for a vaccine or some hopeful news. We choose to focus on protecting our health and the health of others. We are part of a flock that believes in science. The ring is a closed shape; some things are in it and others out. Through a ring we can focus. It the shape around the birds as I look through a telescope or binoculars. It is also the shape scientists seeking knowledge about the corona-19 virus see when they look through microscopes.
There are people who like to boast and fly solo, be above the rest of us and sometimes, like raptors, hunt and rip others apart. Global politics and the pandemic are miasmic, seeping in and encroaching upon our freedoms like a murky fog. Until the bright light of science brings us measures to ensure our safety and positive changes occur so anyone can birdwatch safely without humans-of-prey hunting them down, I’ll keep walking and pouring my feelings out as images for me and for you to view from the safety of your space.