Many people think the landscape painting ‘Tod/The Presence of Absence’
(this month’s image in the 2016 Calendar) is a view of ocean and mountains. It’s actually of one of my favorite places – a farm just outside Philadelphia’s city limits.
It’s a working farm with sheep and cows, and at this time of year you can see baby lambs in the pasture. Because it’s an expanse of open space, contiguous with a chain of green spaces that includes Morris Arboretum (one of Philly’s gems), it is part of a greenway stretching all the way to the Schuylkill River.
This makes it an ideal place for bird watching, as well as a good place to see field birds in an urban area. I’ve seen flocks of hundreds and hundreds there, swirling and moving in waves across the sky, not the norm for a city dweller.
The painting’s major colors, scarlet lake, permanent rose, various turquoises and blue-greens, have been favorites since childhood. Those were always the crayons worn to nubs while plain old green and red languished in the Crayola box.
The image you see in the calendar is a detail. As you see here, the complete painting has an antique Hopi teaching Katchina in it, with characters from different languages exploring aspects of grief.
At the time I painted this, the farm was in danger of falling to development. It was a fate avoided through the complex negotiations and hard work of conservancies, land trusts, benefactors, and the township.
I knew the farm’s presence would always stay with me, but my heart ached at the thought of seeing sprawl in place of those wide fields, hence my linguistic explorations.
A delightful collector out on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State owns the original watercolor of Tod/The Presence of Absence.