In 2001, I participated as a scholar (expedition artist) in the Smith College project The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced: A Century of Change. A television special about this scientific and cultural exploration of Alaska appeared on PBS in June, 2003. We traveled along the coast of Alaska, out to the Aleutians, up to the Pribolofs, and to Siberia. Along the way I amassed many, many photographs, some of which capture the amazing diversity of tundra plants.
Just the thought of trying to capture in a drawing all these little plants and lichens is fairly overwhelming, especially since I feel that they need to be identifiable and not loosely drawn. In a way, this piece is an homage to the beauty of a landscape that might disappear or become much less abundant.
Sometimes ideas for paintings come quickly and others take years to gel. This one took awhile. Over the last four or five years I have been pulling photographs that I thought might work together. This past January, I realized that I wanted to paint a Pika, a small, very fat mammal that may not make it through climate change. Their fat literally cooks them when temperatures rise much above 40 degrees. They are a major prey item and their disappearance will affect the food chain. I added a Forget-Me-Not in his mouth, and this is the piece’s title.
This is one of those time consuming labor of love drawings.