Sunday, July 11, 2010

At the Oasis

I was invited to enjoy and paint the Medano and Zapata Ranches here in the San Luis Valley at the base of Sierra Blanca and near the Great Sand Dunes. This was the second year I have participated in this event sponsored by the wonderful Phillips Family and the Nature Conservancy.

They invite an interesting mix of artists from various perspectives and media. Plein-air painters, etchers, sculptors and too many more to list. The focus is to “gather material.”

This year there were 29 artists including local friends Coni Grant and Sue McCullough.
So that was the set up. I was amused to see the artists wandering about in this magical part of the world, like children let loose for recess. Lots of wide-eyed looks and statements that usually end up with trailing adjectives. Me included. Even though I live close–by, there is a special wonderment in being in intimate day-to-day relation with the meadows, cottonwoods, looming peaks and enigmatic dunes. Not so much with the mosquitos…
And the bison- 2400 of the grunting beasts, with hundreds of calves. You could drive through a herd of several hundred animals in the morning and in the afternoon return to find them gone and nowhere to be seen for 10 miles along the flat horizon. Like ghosts or dreams. The trampled ground and poop piles testifying to their reality.
Found in this terrain are campsites from 12,000 years ago, where ancient people hunted ice-age bison, twice as big as the modern animals with 6 feet spanning between their horns atop their huge heads.
There is a poetic continuity in keeping with the bison theme for millennia. The modern animals were brought in to repopulate the herds exterminated in the 1800’s- a short break in the long timeline.
I feel blessed by people with money who invest in the retention of this landscape to keep it in tune with its ancient rhythms.
I only wish I could paint it better! Oh well- one more special opportunity to wander.
the pictures:
"Magic Morning" plein air oil , 12" x 9"
A bison herd on the Medano Ranch
Coni and Sue painting

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dave,
    I didn't realize there were bison in the Valley. Were they reintroduced in recent years? What an incredible experience! There are many aspects of this great expanse of a valley that I miss! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and vision...