July 7, 2010

Groundhog and Green Bean in Progress

I am so enjoying working on the Flora and Fauna series.  I've now printed all the images I need, both of the animal bones and the associated plants.  I've got ten of them in the works, all very different aside from the common premise, but I also envision this as an ongoing series.  I find the details of the skulls so interesting; the way the teeth differ according to the diet, and how large the eye sockets are, and way the sinus cavities are arranged.  I like the way the cyanotypes abstract the images just enough to keep them from (hopefully) being off putting to those who imagine themselves squeamish about such things, without losing the essential character of the animal.

I've just finished designing and stitching together the top for "Groundhog and Green Bean".  The photo above is looking down on the inside of the top part of the skull.  There are the two large incisors at the front, then a gap, then a set of molars.  Looks a bit like an alien life form in this view, doesn't it?
Anyone with a garden will appreciate my choice of green bean for the associated flora.  My green beans are now fenced in with chicken wire, so they are safe.  The key is to keep the fencing a bit loose, not taut; they could climb over it if they really wanted to, but the instability is off putting.  The only veggies that are not fenced off are the tomatoes, and after several years of crop failure they are looking good this season; tonight I saw a young adult whistle pig checking them out....we haven't had one in residence, as it were, for a few years, but apparently the battle for supremacy, and tomatoes, is about to begin anew.

Here's a side view of the upper and lower skull and jaw.  Those teeth are one of the reasons--the claws are another--that you don't want to mess around with a cornered and defensive groundhog.  We once had a dog, a German Shepard mix, who had the knack of digging them out of their hole and dispatching them with a single shake, but an inexperienced or dim-witted dog (not to suggest that YOUR dog could possibly be dimwitted) can get seriously injured.  I have a farming neighbor who kept track of the groundhogs his dog killed, and over a ten year span she was at something like 87.  She was a sweet Shepard, good with children, but took her job of protecting the corn fields and her family's livelihood very seriously.

Personally I prefer to co-exist whenever possible with the wildlife that fits into this niche where the suburbs and woods and fields converge; I have that luxury.  I won't trap or shoot or set the dogs on my the latest groundhog, should he/she take up permanent residence. I will curse it roundly, distract it with corn cobs and melon rinds on the compost pile, and hopefully get to work and fence off the tomatoes. 

All of the fabrics in this top are ones I've printed or painted myself, with the exception of that gorgeous gray speckled one in the last photo.  That's a "sugar dye" from the studio of the talented Deb Lacativa, who dyes them for her own use but parts with a few on occasion. 

A quick reminder to anyone attending the Arts Fest at Penn State this week--my "White Mulberry" and "Plume Poppy" are on display at the Robeson Gallery in Images 2010 until the 11th.


Gerrie said...

I had forgotten about the whistle pig nick name!! I find the cyanotype skulls fascinating.

Pat's Place said...

Whistle pig! What a great nick name. Our little dog had one cornered (sort of) under our deck and the darned thing kept whistling and chatting as though the two of them were playing some sort of game! I doubt our dog could harm a ground hog, but the hog could surely hurt Spunky.

BTW, our hog loves to eat the tops of all the daisies. Alas, I don't have any veggies planted.

Love the cyanotypes - especially the skull ones. I have a small collection of "found" bones, including skulls. I've only used them in creating appropriate medicine bags for others...when requested. Otherwise, they remain a little collection of lovely bones...

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic, original series, Sue. Those skulls juxtaposed with the flora are beautiful!

Mia (our S. Husky) has murdered 3 groundhogs in the past week. I'm afraid to let her out back anymore.

Keep up the excellent work!


Penny Mateer said...

Now I know how they do it. I live in the city alongside the little critters. Actually we had to trap last year when they took residence under our deck.

But I digress. I love this series. The cyanotypes of the skulls are fascinating and compelling.

Thanks for sharing.

Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

I think the skulls are really interesting, Sue. Nice stuff.

A few years ago, I found a very large groundhog up about 10-15 feet in one of our weeping cherry trees. I had no idea (until then) that they could climb trees; they certainly don't look built for it!

I'll look forward to watching this series develop.

Did you plant those spider flower seeds I sent you last fall? Mine are beautiful right now.

Sue Reno said...

Thanks so much for the comments! One of the motivations for the series is that (almost) everyone has stories to tell about these animals; I find the interactions fascinating.
Susan, I got the flower planted on the late side, but they have just started blooming and are wonderful, thanks again.