Totem Spruce (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Totem Spruce (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 26 in | 50.8 x 66 cm

One of my delights in painting is celebrating aspects of nature that usually go unnoticed, like this dead spruce in the middle of a swamp. Without leaves, the structure of branches and bark are revealed. Under the patches of missing bark are patterns of wood grain and colors created by weathering and resin. Indeed, the forces of nature have created a totem pole of this spruce. I placed it in the middle of the composition and made it large so that there would be no mistake that it is the focus of the painting.

This scene reminded me of the beauty of flora in decay, an example of wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. According to the architect Tadao Ando, “It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind.

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On the other hand, there is also a lot of life in this scene. The spruce itself may not be alive but the lichen growing on it is vibrant and the loose bark harbors many insects over the winter. The cattail heads are packed with thousands of winged seeds ready to start a new generation. The red pines, spruces, and dogwoods at the edge of the swamp are poised to move in as the swamp fills up.

You can see White Spruce (Picea glauca) throughout the forested regions of Canada and Alaska except on the West Coast. It also can be found in the northern most parts of the states east of Minnesota. Cattails (Typha latifolia) grow in the marshy areas throughout the same region. This little swamp is in a green belt conservation area just South of Ottawa.

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