Friday, September 27, 2013

CREATING NEW WORK BEGINNING WITH PIGS: The genesis requires unconditional love, patience, and yes, a vision

IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS A VISION. If you imagine that you are seeing sea turtle angels, you are correct. They have not hatched from their nest. Instead, they were food stuff for pigs! (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for creating new work. For me, this process must be pleasurable and filled with unconditional love. Oh! And did I say my beginnings need to be meaningful? How do new works begin? Can the genesis be documented?

I'm laughing as I ask this question about documentation of new works! Forgive me for being rhetorical! 

So in the beginning, there are these barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, USA. I will name them like the characters in Snow White: Tybee, Wassaw, Ossabaw, St. Catherines, Sapelo, St. Simons, Jekyll, and Cumberland (to name a few).

On these islands are invasive species! For now, I am focusing on the pig. Yes, pig. Pigs are invasive species on these coastal environments and they tromp and wallow on native plants causing a lot of habitat destruction. Worse, they prey upon native animals on the islands--for example--eating sea turtle eggs!
HUNGRY PIG FAMILY. In addition to having ravenous appetites, pigs reproduce at rapid rates and in large numbers. A litter can have as many as twelve piglets! (photo by Jenifer Hilburn)
My brilliant husband, Tony Martin, explains the pig situation on the barrier islands eloquently and thoroughly on his website, "Life Traces of the Georgia Coast." 

"Feral hogs (Sus scrofa) have a special place in the rogue’s gallery of invasive mammals on the Georgia barrier islands, and most people agree they are the worst of the lot. Hogs are on every large undeveloped island – Cumberland, Sapelo, St. Catherines, and Ossabaw – and they wreak ecological havoc wherever they roam. The widespread damage they cause is largely related to their voracious and omnivorous diet, in which they seek out and eat nearly any foodstuff, whether fungal, plant, or animal, live or dead. Their fine sense of smell is their greatest asset in this respect: every time I have tracked feral hogs, their tracks show head-down-nose-to-the-ground movement as the norm, punctuated by digging that uses a combination of their snouts and front hooves to tear up the ground in their quest for food. In other words, they generally act like, well, you know what."
FERAL PIGS EATING SEA TURTLE EGGS. (art by Hallelujah Truth)

"Most importantly from the standpoint of native animals that try to live more than one generation beyond a single hog meal, feral hogs eat eggs. Hence ground-nesting birds and turtles are among their victims, and hogs are quite keen on eating sea turtle eggs. Mothers of all three species of sea turtles that nest on the Georgia coast – loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) – dig subsurface nests filled with 100-150 eggs full of protein and other nutrients, making tempting targets for any free-ranging feral hogs. Similarly, hogs also threaten another salt-water turtle, the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin); this turtle lays its eggs in shallow nests near the edges of salt marshes, which hogs manage to find. Conservation efforts to save diamondback terrapins from human predation have mostly succeeded (it used to be a tasty ingredient in soups), but hogs can’t read and don’t discriminate when it comes to eating eggs. Here is where feral hogs are particularly dangerous as an invasive species: unlike feral horses or cattle, which “merely” degrade parts of their ecosystems: feral hogs can contribute directly to the extinction of native species. As I often tell my students, if you want to cause a species to go extinct, stop it from reproducing."

--excerpted from "Going Hog Wild on the Georgia Barrier Islands"

So, when Jenifer Hilburn and I have been collaborating on ideas for telling a compelling environmental story in both words and images about the Georgia coast, one of the characters that emerged in addition to our lead character, the American oystercatcher, was the pig--or as my husband refers to it--the feral hog. Yes, pigs must eat. But must they eat sea turtle eggs?
CURIOUS ABOUT PIG PREDATION. In this heavily photoshopped drawing (because the image is still in process and I felt like photoshopping it), you can see the young fledging American oystercatcher asking the pig family about why they are eating the sea turtle eggs. I have included pig tracks and broken eggs. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
BABY LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE. What a beauty! I used this iconic shape of a baby sea turtle for my drawing here. However, I made my baby sea turtles loggerheads. Do you see the difference in their shells?  (photo by Gale Bishop)
How does one begin a new project? By envisioning, collaborating, reading, and being engaged in the process. Also, incorporating past experience. I am so fortunate to have spent so much time on the Georgia coast in the last 12 years with my husband tracking animals, meeting and spending time with naturalists, taking Emory classes there, and doing research for his book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. I have blogged about my experience with relocating sea turtle nests on St. Catherines Island (here).
SEA TURTLES IN A RELOCATED NEST.  Two years ago, I had the opportunity to see how sea turtles are aided in their life cycle by Gale Bishop in the St. Catherines Island Sea Turtle Program. It was a memorable and meaningful experience to help relocate a sea turtle nest higher away from the surf and to protect that new site with fencing from predators such as the feral hog. (photo by Tony Martin)

Certainly, I am not making judgments about my work at its genesis. Instead, am appreciative to my collaborator, Jen, and am repeating the mantra: 

Not good. Not bad. Just is.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me about how you begin projects. How do you make them fun and pleasurable? How do you gain momentum? Do you envision? Do you experience unconditional love?
TAO FOR PLEASURE. While I draw at my dining room table, I burn incense, listen to music, dance, and invite our two cats to join me. Tao visits me regularly for play breaks! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)


  1. I'm loving your beginning! I'm excited to see more :) For me starting is always the hardest part - once I get over the hurdle of fear it's fun to play. As I say this I glance over to my canvas that has been calling me all week but is having to wait due to other activities (sigh). Love your blog!!

  2. Christine! Thank you for SOUL BLOGGING with me! Looking forward to your sharing the painted canvas! And I will keep sharing my progress with you!

  3. It hurts my heart to think of the feral pigs decimating the turtle nest. Is there no way to stop it. We have a way of interfering with Mother Nature causing this sort of havoc in may different places and ways. Introducing non native species for our enjoyment. What ever that may be at the time. I enjoyed reading this new beginning for you and looking forward to reading more...

    1. Mine too Darlene! The important thing is to maintain hope that we, each one of us, can make a difference. I hope I am helping the Georgia coast environment by making images about the wildlife there and blogging about my experiences there with naturalists and scientists.

  4. Sometimes I play with ideas for a new painting by having a vague notion, and then pulling images of paintings that I had clipped from art magazines. I did that this summer for ideas of style. the paintings were based on preliminary drawings of wings and surging, rising forms that I did last summer on paper. I also get inspired to begin work after visiting a gallery show that excites me. I spent an afternoon in some Chelsea area galleries in NYC last week. I photographed a few works on canvas that made me itch to paint. One young woman's work used bold brushstrokes and a playful naive characterization of the human figure.Liked it!

    1. See See I'm looking forward to seeing the art you create from these recent images that have inspired you. As always thanks for sharing your ideas.