Version Two uses the same leaf paintings as Poplar Leaf Study: Version One but adds patterns, sketched images, and words to the backgrounds/negative spaces of the paintings. The words take the form of quotes related to leaves and my own thoughts regarding what was happening in my studio and life at the time of making the paintings.
Walking down a dirt trail that follows the Boise River on a lovely fall day — what could be better? The warm sun is on my back, light bounces off the rippled surface of the river, and the path is dappled with poplar leaves. What first catches my artist’s eye is the diversity of color, value, pattern, size, and texture of the leaves. No two leaves are deteriorating in the same way. This realization triggers a more philosophical direction in my thinking moving away from the initial fascination of design. The individuality of death is probably true of most organic life, including human beings. Although there are similar aspects of aging, the process is unique for all.
This thought brought to mind a classic teaching of the Buddha. In guiding his followers on developing an understanding of the transient nature of all existence, he encouraged his students to contemplate the disintegration of their own human body after death, following the body through each step of decay to the bones turning to dust. While this may seem morbid to some people, it is a very effective way, with frequent repetition, to build an understanding of the very temporary nature of our own being. One of the Buddha’s most liberating teachings is the deep understanding of impermanence.
As I looked at the poplar leaves on the path they seemed to offer a beautiful analogy of this concept of impermanence. The cycle from green leaves fallen to dusty skeletons of leaf veins were arrayed before me. Since I feel intimately engaged in the aging process, I decided to contemplate the decay of the leaves as a substitute for my body. Painting has always been my tool of contemplation and learning. Use this book as an aid in your understanding of impermanence, or just reflect on the beauty and diversity of the leaves, either way — enjoy.
Once upon a time (and space) there was an unfolding and expanding universe. Among its seemingly countless galaxies is our Milky Way galaxy. Within the Milky Way galaxy are seemingly countless stars, one of which is our own sun. In the debris that circles that sun is rock called the Earth. On that rock has evolved seemingly countless life forms, one of which is a robust parasite called human beings.
There is a beautiful spot on that planet called the Snake River Basin. In one of the Snake River’s many valleys, near the Boise River, one of the Snake’s seemingly countless tributaries, there lives a parasitic painter called Mark McGinnis. Being new to the region the painter decided to explore the area and paint what he found. He found great geographic diversity: mountains, deserts, forests, rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and more. While the parasites had done some DAMage to the system it still maintained much of its beauty and life-giving bounty. The parasite painter hoped that his paintings might inspire others to preserve and maybe even, in time, restore this lovely area of the earth.
He was able to hope this because of a rather painful evolutionary trait the parasites had developed called consciousness. It had enabled the species its great success and also enabled it to damage its hostess, the Earth. Now that same consciousness had the capability undoing some of the harm it had wrought and the parasites created a holiday to honor that new consciousness. The parasites, not being too imaginative, called it Earth Day.
copyright 2013 Mark W. McGinnis
(presented to the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Boise ID, April 21, 2013)
The following eight paintings are my most recent additions to my Snake River Basin series. All but the Boise River painting are located in central Idaho, most in the Sawtooth Mountains.
The graceful similarity of willow leaves to bamboo leaves has often caught my eye. I finally decided to take action on the observation and what medium could better for such an endeavor than black ink. The following six paintings are the results.
Yes, the NEW Snake River Basin Series. I am afraid the PREVIOUS Snake River Basin Series, consisting of large scale multi-panel pieces, was too much for my physical limitations and I have had to revision my approach. This new series will all be 11″ X 14″. acrylic on 300# paper. The Snake River Basin encompasses most of Idaho, and parts of Wyoming, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. It is my hope to sample much of this region in the coming years.