In 2010, I was in England helping one of my relations around the house, when my eye was caught by some photographs of birds featured in a section of newspaper which was on its way to the recycling bin. Feeling a bit absurdly that I had to rescue them, I tore out the pages and brought them back home, compelled to paint them all. These were followed by a variety of bees, plus a pair of cardinals, caterpillars, butterflies, and a dragonfly. In the background of each painting, a ghostly image of a branch, nest, hole, honeycombed hive, or bird houses, all hint at potential or actual loss of abode or habitat. Decorative paper suggests the human element: the domesticity of wallpaper, or perhaps the gesture of a wrapped gift.
Soon realizing my own photography skills weren't up to the task, I went online to request permission from photographers to use their images of various birds, caterpillars, butterflies, and bees. (Most were obliging, asking only that I be sure to give them a photo credit.) Due to coinciding concerns about threats to honey bees and other pollinators, I started my Garden Variety series.
I depict these various creatures using oil paints on a background of wax, built up in many layers over custom-made wood panels. Often I incorporate wallpaper, origami paper, decorative paper, feathers, and/or found objects, sometimes adding bits of gold leaf.
This is my artist statement on ArtSpan's
From my archives:
(2000) Deborah Howard-Page
B.F.A., 1993, San Francisco Art Institute
I find myself researching and contemplating the roles that nature played in ancient mythologies, and how we yearn for connections to nature in our own lives. Later on, my creative interpretations will gradually, or suddenly, evolve.
My encaustic mixed media is made with pigmented beeswax, oil paint, colored pencils (occassional found objects, such as bones, leaves, insect wings), and/or pastels, usually on birch panels. Although I often make a sketch or study--particularly for figurative and portrait work--it all comes into being through process. Often an element of chance leads me in a direction different than what I had originally intended. This is both terrifying and exciting.
I discovered the nature muse by reading The White Goddess, by Robert Graves.
When I was twenty, I had given this book to my father, John Howard, a former Hollywood actor who later became a Waldorf high school English/drama teacher. Around this time, our family would gather, filled with anticipation, to watch every single episode of the British production of Graves' "I, Claudius," when it first aired on public television in Los Angeles.
At the time I'd given it to him, I'd had little interest in reading this book myself. But after he died, I pulled it off his bookshelf, suddenly curious: he'd bookmarked over fifty pages with paper-clips! As I began to explore his bookmarks, I got hooked. The next thing I knew, I was spellbound.*
My Sacred Grove Series uses photographs I took while in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, of certain trees and Celtic ruins. It is, like the Celtic Knots, centered upon the symbolism of ancient Celtic tree-worship, invoking the spirit of Taliesin, the Sacred Grove, the "roebuck in the thicket." Urania, Brizo of Delos, got its title from The White Goddess.
*With all due respect, I am not interested in the practices or results of nature-magick, aka Wicca; I am satisfied with a certain amount of mystery in my life. But recognition of my Celtic ancestry actually began for me at age ten, when I first switched on FM radio, surfing stations until I was captured by the voice of Tommy Makem singing live with the Clancy Brothers, performing "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" and "The Connemara Lullaby," both songs wistful and melancholic. (Also read S Page's music comments.)
Robert McNamara writes, "Suantrai is the Gaelic word for lullaby...[such a] beautiful melody can be heard in a recording by the Irish a capella group, "Anuna." Their name derives from the Gaelic "An Uaithne", which is the collective name of the three ancient types of Irish music: Suantrai (lullaby), Geantrai (happy song), and Goltrai (lament)."