Paintings as Pages: Front and Back of Nature

When I went to see my former student Lucy Dill's senior show at CCA, I found myself in a gallery on the San Francisco campus with three other students' works as well. In her exhibition titled, Lost and Found, Tina Curiel's paintings caught my attention: she painted natural scenes, like trees or plants, painted on natural canvas (with little specks showing in unpainted areas), and with birds and animals that looked like they were overpainted with white, almost jacquard-like.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that the fauna were painted in full detail on the backs of the canvases. She lit them from behind to make them look like they were ghosts. One canvas even had a tiny hidden canvas bag in back that held a recording of a bird. Some paintings had fragments of mirrors included.

Her statement and website include the following quote:
We no longer destroy great works of art. They are treasured, and regarded as of priceless value; but we have yet to attain the state of civilization where the destruction of a glorious work of Nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird, is regarded with equal abhorrence
Henry Fairfield Osborn
Her concerns are with extinction and loss and how we see the world. In another project she hopes to paint 1000 pigeons as a healing gesture of "protection for endangered species and their habitats" and in memory of Martha, the last passenger pigeon: the centennial of her death was this year. She's making this a community project. You can find out more at the link.

Here is a painter who is using her canvases like pages: front and back. Even though I was quite happy with the art as it was, I immediately thought that this concept would lend itself naturally to book form. I love all kinds of art, but I'm also interested in how it can be translated into a book. In this case, birds could be hidden in the book. Pages could be make of thin paper or cloth and let the birds show through. The book could have pockets that house the birds. Wing-shaped pages, shaped pages that seem fragmented, but that turn and layer into a complete picture or progress from whole to fragments, volvelles with windows for a variety of information, quotes, and images—all of these are possibilities that would address the theme.

But that is not my work. That is Tina's. My work (for the short moment) is getting my yard in order. I have a large parsley patch that I had hoped would attract swallowtail butterflies (which after the first year, years ago, has not). Time to move on. Instead of business cards, Tina made up small envelopes of flower seeds. I think I will clear part of the parsley and plant the flowers that she gave away. And then I'll paint them. But first, I'll have to make another journal…

Note: While Osborn's quote regarding nature and art is lovely and interesting , sadly, when I looked him up, I found that Osborn was also a eugenist and held racist views. But the conflict between finding something exemplary in someone's writing or art and discovering something lacking in their morals is best saved for another post.


This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this artist and her work.
Velma Bolyard said…
wow! and your final note reminds me of how disappointed i was to read anti-semitic comments in dorothy sayers' novels, when i so loved peter and later, harriet.