I often find myself contemplating ravens. I always thought they were interesting birds - highly intelligent and resourceful, known as The Trickster by First Nations cultures, and in other cultures as a symbol of good or evil, life or death, depending on who's doing the labeling. However, it's only in recent years I've given them much consideration and I now find I have developed some very personal feelings about them. In fact, the raven has taken on the quality of a talisman for me.
On a terrible February day not so long ago - a day of loss and sorrow - one of the few things I recall clearly is the sound of ravens calling in the tree tops. In the months and now years that have passed since then I have been acutely aware of these iconic black birds.
I often hear and glimpse them in the high trees around my Mayne Island cottage, giving me an appreciation for their vast and varied vocabulary and for the soft whooshing sound made by their wings as they move about the neighbourhood. From eavesdropping on their conversations and spying on their interactions I have come to understand just how social they are, how they form relationships, how they care for one another. In many ways, they are not unlike we humans.
I have had dozens of up-close encounters with them, including high in the Rocky Mountains...
...deep down in the Grand Canyon...
... on the vast, sandy beaches of Vancouver Island's wild west coast...
...and on the picturesque gravelly beach that's a stone's throw from my Mayne Island cottage; a place where I like to watch the sun rise (the ravens appear to like to do that too).
These smart, social, statuesque birds are with me, it seems, wherever I go. I have collected stray feathers and greatly admire the iridescent blackness of them. When I see a raven, I acknowledge it and like to pause to appreciate its presence.
It seems only fitting that a raven should feature in my art. In particular, a silk painting I call The Talisman.
I gave it this title for a handful of reasons. While working on it, I found myself reflecting on my life's learnings and experiences. The dark plumage with its intricate patterns is an apt metaphor for a sorrowful time shrouded in grief and the somber journey out from that shadowy place. The bird's bright eye reflects wisdom gleaned from those experiences, and its sharp, sturdy beak points the way forward. The cherry represents the sweetness life may yet have to offer. Shades of purple and magenta resonate for reasons I can't articulate.
It's an important, personal piece - a milestone of sorts - invested with emotion. While I completed the painting some time ago it wasn't till now that I felt right about sharing its story here.
With a few notable exceptions, I rarely keep much of the art I make. However The Talisman is one of those exceptions. This painting will stay with me and help guide my onward journey as well as serve as a reminder of where I've been.
Dedicated to Thomas Kalpatoo, December 21, 1948 - February 17, 2015