I'm happy to announce that my oil painting REFUGIUM has received 3rd place in Fusion Art's international juried online exhibition "The Natural World."
This work was inspired in large part by memories and photographs from a 2009 visit to Lord Howe Island, off the southeastern coast of Australia. Lord Howe, only 3km wide by 11km long, contains a striking diversity of landscapes and vegetation (not to mention stunning scenery) given its small size. The island’s narrow northern half is relatively low and covered by rainforest, grading into dense scrub in steep and rocky areas. In contrast, the southern half is composed of two towering peaks, Mount Lidgbird and the slightly taller Mount Gower. A challenging and dizzying hike, much of it skirting sheer cliffs, accesses a unique “mist forest” carpeting the latter’s 875m summit. Composed mostly of species found nowhere else, the most prominent including two palms and the Lord Howe Island currawong (pictured below, still unafraid of humans), this magical forest is markedly different than the drier landscape below. Yet the lowland forest is still considered “rainforest,” and–containing its own two endemic palms–is relatively lush. In the painting, I was inspired to accentuate the distinction between the two forest types by making the lowlands more arid.
The composition represents an ecological journey. It begins in the lower left at the summit of Mount Gower, overlooking the island’s coral lagoon and lowland hills covered by dry forest. To the right, the mist forest closes in overhead, with the slopes of Mt. Lidgbird visible in the distance across a valley. (These foreground views are based loosely on the photographs below.) Far below, the dry hills continue into the background; in the painting’s upper right fragment, they become steadily drier and arc westward, enclosing the lagoon. Finally, shown in the upper left, the hills end in a rocky desert peninsula studded with succulents, forming the island’s northwestern tip.
The lush foreground views, portraying what is both on canvas and in reality an ecosystem found nowhere else, I see as a sanctuary for species hemmed in by ocean and aridity. I imagine that as the climate warms and dries, the arid lowlands will creep upward, and these species will have nowhere to go. Hopefully, the very summit will be spared, and act as a “refugium” (a habitat providing refuge for species though a period of inhospitable climate) for species like the currawong–here eyeing with uncertainty the ominous landscape below.