“Flannery” 15×45 in, oil on canvas Buy Now

Books, not paintings, were the first art I loved and before I knew I had any artistic ability, before ubiquitous laptops and iphones, I took to writing words as a form of drawing. It was not only their meaning, but the very act of putting pen to paper that energized me. I liked watching a word form visually, left to right, up and down. I loved seeing a sentence in a place that had previously been devoid of any thought but also any pattern or design.

Writing was powerful to me not just because of the ideas it allowed me to convey, but the lines it allowed me draw.

In high school and beyond my favorite writer was Flannery O’Connor probably because I had not been introduced to many women authors and she was young (she died at just 39), southern, Catholic, a bit a misfit– all things I felt made us part of the same club.

It wasn’t until I started painting seriously that I could add another shared trait to my list: a love of birds. O’Connor raised peacocks on her farm and describes their beautiful, odd, at times awkward behaviors in an essay entitled “Living with a Peacock”.

In true O’Connor fashion, she avoids descriptions of the obvious or conventional in favor of the less idealistic and yet somehow more endearing qualities of the bird :

Flannery O’Connor and two of her peacocks.

“Not every part of the peacock is striking to look at, even when he is full-grown. His upper wing feathers are a striated black and white and might have been borrowed from a Barred Rock Fryer; his end wing feathers are the color of clay; his legs are long, thin and iron-colored; his feet are big; and he appears to be wearing the short pants now so much in favor with playboys in the summer. These extend downward, buff-colored and sleek, from what might be a blue-black waistcoat. One would not be disturbed to find a watch chain hanging from this, but none does. Analyzing the appearance of the pea­cock as he stands with his tail folded, I find the parts incommensurate with the whole. The fact is that with his tail folded, nothing but his bearing saves this bird from being a laughingstock. With his tail spread, he inspires a range of emotions, but I have yet to hear laughter”

The peacock, she seems to suggest, is a just a moodier, bossier, occasionally more majestic chicken.

And, truth be told, most days I feel like chicken. Painting. Writing. Making those types of marks– those are the things that make me feel like peacock is even a little bit possible.


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