"The Estero Gang"
30 x 30"
Acrylic on Cradled Board2012
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“Fiddles McGee, being possessed of a most indomitable spirit, and quite heedless of his diminutive stature, ruled the Estero Gang with an iron claw both beautiful and unforgiving.”
Anthropomorphisation is often regarded as a dirty word by those who paint animals, but how, when one is human, can one help but observe wildlife from other than a human perspective? Being inclined to rigorous study and faithful representation of my subjects, I refuse to allow my feelings for an animal to distort its anatomy, but the experiences I have with wildlife and the backstories they evoke in my mind often guide the work in directions that are, in some ways, more fanciful than factual. That is certainly the case with “The Estero Gang.”
The painting began during a recent trip to San Carlos, Mexico, on the coast of the Sea of Cortez. I took several long hikes around the nearby estero, a unique intertidal zone between desert and sea. I was delighted to encounter huge numbers of fiddler crabs, then thoroughly fascinated when I realized how many distinctly different varieties I could encounter within a fairly short distance. There was the luminous yellow or chartreuse Uca vocator, the delicate orange Uca crenulata, and the glorious lipstick magenta and purple Uca musica, so tiny and so numerous on one stretch of beach I had to concentrate to avoid stepping on them as they zig-zagged the sand. Then of course there was the distinctly larger, massive-clawed Uca princeps, the crab that dominates the center of the composition and became known to me as Fiddles McGee. It is a site both impressive and comical to see one of these two to three inch long, stalk-eyed aliens waving a pop-eye claw in the air to ward off a six-foot-tall man. It was this fearlessness and audacity that most inspired me to paint these crabs. I watched them for hours and fell in love, not only with their bizarre, intricate bodies, flashy colors, and cheeky personalities, but with their constant, regimented marches across the mudflats. I began to see them as a great crustacean army and imagined the ambitious foot-soldiers, the crafty generals, the armchair retirees, and the clashes of claw against claw in the endless struggle for power.
However fanciful those sentiments may be, they informed this composition, a sort of patchwork quilt sampler of the crabs I observed set against a backdrop of brightly colored silhouettes that suggest in an interpretive fashion- rather than describe in a literal fashion- the profusion of different species and the endless procession of their colorful ranks across the ever-changing landscape.