I must be working on three things at the same time right now…there’s a big tree painting on my drafting table, waiting to be developed further into a tree world; there’s ink drawings I’m working on and now there are two new paintings. Or, almost. Because I’m still working on “Ancestor”.
Last fall was a phenomenal mushroom year. There were SO many and such a huge variety of them too. Even in the woods nearby, that I never considered very rich in diversity, I photographed hundreds and most of them different species. I even found some mushrooms I’d never seen in real life before. It was exhilarating! Of course these mushrooms would turn up in my work sooner or later. This week they did…
The painting I’m working on now is not inspired by mushrooms, but by ancestry. It’s a theme that’s been on my mind ever since I heard what I think could be the wisest question ever.
It was in a course about climate change and humanity adapting to it and hopefully putting a stop to it. At some point we students realised that part of why we were there in the course was because we were mourning the state of the world and because we were feeling desperate because we didn’t know what to do. Sometimes it feels so pointless. We’re just individuals. What can we do, right? Well, yes, but no, because one of our students had read something an Indian woman had said that changed my perspective within seconds. When she talked to people who felt just like us, she’d said:
“What kind of Ancestor do you want to be?”
BAM! That question put me straight into a vertical line in time and space. It gave me a place between all who came before us and who put us in this mess, ourselves and those who come after us and are left with what we pass on to them. Therefore, we can never allow ourselves to be defeated. We have a job to do here.
I decided there and then that I can only choose to be the kind of ancestor who is not afraid to look those who come after us in the eyes in passing on the world. I may not be able to save it on my own, but I’m sure that this question can wake up a deep sense of love, care and responsibility…for our offspring, for the world, for all that is alive. And together, we, future Ancestors, can strive to pass our world on to a generation who has seen us give it all.
Individually we may be able to do very little, but if we stitch those little pieces of sustainable ancestry together, our tapestry might cover the world. I hope my paintings are a spec on that tapestry.
“Ancestor”, the painting
I’m exploring the idea of ancestry in this painting…the many faces of it, the fabric of the past that covers us and our own fabric that will cover the future. It’s still very much ‘in progress”, but so far I’m loving it and can’t wait to see how I’ll continue.
What do you think of the idea of seeing yourself as an ancestor? What does it mean to you? How do you feel about our own ancestors? Is there anything you feel we got from them that you would like to pass on? And what chain from the past would you definitely like to break here?