Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Don't act like you're tired of hearing about this.

This past Monday was a beautiful day capped with a big warm blue sky but I spent my afternoon shielded from the stellar spring day inside a warehouse photographing dead animals.  Animal.  Specimen.  Collections.  I know, I know...it was over 2 years ago that I first took a sketch book into one and the obsession began, but I feel like the subject is still so new and large with wings fresh and unfolding.

I'm still putting together the pieces of what these odd and beautiful spaces mean to me. It's such a special place and one I feel that is not entirely mine to share...yet.  I could only muster up the guts to post these three photos.

 northern flickers

 delicate frogs


I try not to move or manipulate the subjects, I want to capture them as I found them. They were placed in their new existence by caring hands concerned with taxonomy, not aesthetics, which makes for fascinating, narrative-invoking groupings for a novice naturalist like myself.

I visit collections to gather reference material for paintings but more importantly to gain an understanding of the space where the outdoors and the indoors meet.  Ah yes...the ghastly overwhelming topic of nature vs. man.  What better place to research the subject than inside a man-made building filled with animal carcasses?

Okay, the outdoors comes face to face with the indoors...let's do this.  At first I thought of this space as a gentle overlay of two places but the more time I spend there, I realize that it is more like a delicate intersection and delicate does not translate to peaceful.  It is an environment where conflict often begins.  Take a tree root and a city sidewalk for example - one is constantly trying to overtake the other.

So visiting and documenting specimen collections is how I explore this concept while indoors.  Got it - check.  I found the reverse when on my recent artist residency at Madrono Ranch.  What is one way to explore this concept while I'm outdoors?  The photos below did it for me.  Freakin' reflections...who knew?

So what does all of this mean?  I have no idea.  
All I know is that I'm going to keep doing it.


  1. I love the reflections. I also have been fascinated by purple thistle. Why? I don't know. They hurt like hell when you get stuck by one. I really enjoyed reading your blog. You are so talented Layla! Keep up the good work. I love you and am very proud of you!

  2. Delicate Frogs - band name. Gravy Sloths.