Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Gift of Beauty

"Road to the Sky" 18x36, Oil on Canvas
(This is the painting I will be donating to the Park)
Tomorrow morning I leave this place for home. I have been hiking in some of my favorite spots trying to see them, "the last time." It's tough to leave. In just one short month I have found such solace and joy in these agave's and rocks. I have witnessed the changes of weather while I'm here. The same mountains that was clear and red became shrouded in cloud as if in a warm white coat. I've witnessed clear blue skies, mist, rain, storms and strong winds. I've seen the hairy Javelina's that look like a wild boar (but are not a part of the pig family), rabbits, deer, a mountain lion, coyotes and countless birds of every shade and sound. My husband and my youngest girls saw a black bear yesterday. Incredible, teeming life here!
I recently was interviewed by NPR in Marfa, Texas about my experience in the park. You can go HERE if you wish to hear it. I shared about one particular night in which I was sleeping in my little apartment at Panther Junction and I heard the howling in the canyons. It was loud enough to wake me up. In a few minutes I actually heard the coyotes right at my door and window. I could feel their howls in my chest. There is no better feeling for a landscape artist as I was reminded that I was in their home. This was where they roamed and lived. I was getting to catch the glimpse of what that wildness was like.
"Madrone Tree" 6x9, Oil on Canvas
My favorite hike has been up the Pinnacles to the start of  Boot Canyon. I went up on David Elkowitz' (The Chief of Interpretations that has been taking me around to some of the most remarkable spots in the Park) recommendation that the Maples were turning and I wanted to see them. They were glorious and I will paint them in the coming months. What I didn't expect was this graceful tree to captivate me so much. A favorite of the Black Bears for their red berries, the Madrone tree is a ghostly white/blue and twists and turns like a graceful dancer. I went for the Maples but was taken by the Madrone.
"Nugent Mountain" 24x20, Oil on Canvas
When the mist fell through the park for several days I was able to get to some of my favorite mountains and watch the overlapping colors distill and fade. I love that. This is Nugent Mountain. My husband and I camped here on my first night in the park. We watched the Sierra Del Carmen's light up coral and pink in the setting sun and with the sunrise we were able to see this beautiful mountain become a striking red stone. During the mist it had several purple shades mixed with the beautiful reds and browns of the desert.

"Storm King" 9x12, Oil on Canvas
One morning when the mist was over the Chisos Mountains I was able to see Casa Grande in this deep dark blue with a striking blue sky. The mist was just starting to curl over the ridges. I am so enamored with how the mountain profile hits the sky and the mood of the mist. I call it "Storm King" because I thought the mountain looked like a crown.
"Blue Canyon" 9x12, Oil on Canvas

This was part of the Boquillas Canyon Trail. The sky was so blue that day. We were walking right along with the Rio Grande and I loved how the rocks were these flesh tone colors and when they were in shadow they were blue.

I will try to post more when I get back home as the wifi here is so spotty.

There is no possible way to capture this place. It is vast and deep and more than beautiful. It is full of wildness that has an element of fear to it. The word, "sublime," is fitting for such a place. I believe Turner, O'Keeffe and Carr would have loved it here. In the weeks that I was alone I wrestled with the fear. I would find myself scared when I hiked alone or when I was driving in the dark back to my place. The darkness is deep and thick. There are no shadows, only black. I began to talk to God about this as I didn't want it to keep me from experiencing all that He has given me to BE in. What I came to was that I have a false sense of security in my cars and lights and walls. The busyness of life distracts me from the fear of the darkness and what could be in it. When it comes down to it the sense of "being watched" when I was alone on the trails was real. I now believe I WAS being watched by the very presence of God. I touched on what it means to feel "fear" in His presence. We sing about coming into His presence and asking Him to be with us but to really BE with Him is something fearsome and awesome. He is wild and beautiful and so much more real than the rocks I was walking on. I can't describe it only to say that I knew Him in that moment to be there like I've never thought or felt before. He was delighting in this space with me and all I could do was sing, pray and tremble. I asked Him to cover my fear with His love and He did. It did not take away my fear or respect of this space and time but it did help me see through it more clearly. The deeper sky at night filled with thousands of colors that were set in motion by someone good and huge. He is Abba, Father but He is also Creator of the Universe. He set the planet on it's tilt. He made these mountains with life and depth and shades of colors that we cannot even describe in paint. He is Artist and Master. My eyes have drank deeply of the goodness of the Lord. My heart has felt His untamed glory.

I find now that I come to it that I don't want to leave the tension of that space. The fear and the love. It is my space as a human.

"A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. It was hardly a tune. But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew


  1. Your gifts are for all of us to enjoy....your words are powerful and your paintings expressive of the fullness in your huge heart, Dawn. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts and experiences. Looking so forward to more of your beautiful art...! With loads of love and hope for abundant happiness for you, Maureen

  2. Maureen, thank you for your sweet friendship and support. I truly hope we can paint together again someday. You are a tender blessing to me!