I found this gorgeous palm fragment lying in the gutter during a recent walk. A windy day casualty, it lay partially upon the curb looking like an imploring hand. I stopped to check it out, deciding then that if it were still there upon my return I’d have to take it home. I could barely concentrate on my walk and actually cut it short; I had to get back and see if my palm fragment was still there. It was, so I dragged it out of the street to carry it home. Cradled in my arms, I realized it was pretty big, (about 5-feet in length) and, although light at first, it became too-heavy quickly. In my current condition I’m unable to carry much weight comfortably, so I stashed it behind a wall until Paul and I could pick it up in the car. I worried that it would be picked up by street cleaners, but a few days later when we went to pick it up it was there waiting. It’s now in my studio and everyone who visits is amazed by it. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it — maybe paint it, maybe paint onto it — but I’m inspired by its size, forms and textures.
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I wondered if other artists dragged nature’s fallen bits home … and found that they do! The photograph below is of Georgia O’Keefe’s studio with a branch as model, the obvious subject of an nearby abstract painting.
This fragment — the flower stalk from my favorite aloe ferox — had finally become desiccated enough to remove but I found myself unable to toss it. How could I simply discard something that looked like a 3-D scribble, or a collection of tentacles frozen mid-swirl? I brought it into the house and placed it on the hearth where it complements the dark-on-dark color scheme I have going on there.
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As I pointed out in this post from 2010 (click), dried aloe stalks remind me of the work of painter Brice Marden. I was excited to find a picture of his studio, too, with a shapely branch being used for inspiration.
Georgia O’Keefe and Brice Marden are American artists of the highest order; I don’t mean to imply that I’m in their league in any way. But, knowing their work — and that nature served as its inspiration — is heartening. I hope to use my natural souvenirs similarly.