Friday, April 22, 2011

Life Springs

Life Springs

oil on linen

12 x 9

private collection

Paintings tell stories. Some paintings tell us everything. Others make us guess. Still others lead us to come up with our own story. This painting was done last week during the Callaway Paintout and Sale at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia. Only this particular painting wasn't done at Callaway at all. It was painted on an estate in LaGrange, Georgia. LaGrange is a few miles west of Pine Mountain. But this place was more than a few miles apart in character from Pine Mountain. It was an ocean apart.

The artists in the paintout were divided up into two per team and shuttled to nearby cities to paint in private gardens on Tuesday. I was partnered with Robin Roberts from Ohio. We were met by a gentleman who drove us out to his castle, estate, er home for the day. Now imagine the sites and landscape along the way. LaGrange is a pretty enough town. It has a nice college there and lots of churches in the downtown area. The surrounding landscape is humble houses, small farms, and a few mobile homes sprinkled now and then. We drove through a large stone gated drive and down a long narrow road. Then before us appeared this "mini" Biltmore house. At least 3 stories with a English tudor styling that rivaled anything you would see on the Hudson or Long Island. Vast green lawns stretched forever with stacked stone walls lining them.

I expected Giles or Jeeves to come out and take our humble backpacks crammed with our supplies. Instead, we were shown around by the owner and then set up to paint where we pleased. I love painting architecture. But believe me, I was way too intimated by this place to paint it. No way. So I found a humble smokehouse in the back of a small (comparatively) perennial garden to paint. It was one of the remains of the plantation that once occupied this land.

After lunch, I went up the hill to this spot in the painting: a foundation and chimney left by a former dwelling on the property. The new owner had cleared the area, there were wrought iron chairs and tables nearby and had planted this native azalea. What appealed to me was the way the ruins were so cared for and left as they were. Certainly the owner could have razed the stones and naturalized the area. But here they were: a nod to the inhabitants of years gone by. A slave quarters? Tenant farmers? Gardeners house? And before it, a brightly lit orange azalea that seemed to say life goes on. So when you think about it, we all just pass through this earth. We create dwellings, clear the land, and plant our gardens. Nature really owns it. I think that's why God gave us springtime to remind us.

Happy Earth Day on Friday and Happy Easter to you and yours,

Christ died and rose again. Life Springs Eternal.