Saturday, June 25, 2016

New Emily Dickinson Tribute for June's Nibblefest Art Contest "BUTTERFLIES" theme

"The Butterfly Upon the Sky...."

Oils on a 5 x 7 beveled corner wood plaque, my tribute to Emily Dickinson

Yep, it's time to Nibble, once again.  
June's Nibblefest Art Contest theme is "Butterflies". 

What comes to mind when you think about butterflies....?  For me, it's the stately American Monarch.  Or more specifically, the trouble that our lovely Monarch Butterflies are currently finding themselves in.  They are at grave risk of becoming endangered.  This once ubiquitous Lepidoptera, which used to be EVERYWHERE when I was a kid....?  How can this be?

As I understand, the primary issue for their decreasing numbers, is their food source, the Milkweed.  A once common prairie plant, the Milkweed is the ONE and ONLY food source for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillar.  The adults lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves, and the larvae hatch and feast.   Loss of habitat, in combination with uber-effective new-generation herbicides in the agricultural industry, have really done a number on this once-common 'weed'.  It no longer grows in America in numerous, wide swaths as it once did.  So it's simple math really -- no Milkweed, no Monarch Butterflies....  

As such, Monarchs were heavily in my mind as I reflected upon this month's "Butterflies" theme.  To help me flesh out my concept, I turned to some lines of poetry by one of my favorites, the legendary Emily Dickinson.  She wrote a short poem entitled, "The Butterfly Upon the Sky".  A tribute to a classic American butterfly should only be paired with a classic American poet, don't you agree...?

"Butterfly Upon the Sky", my 4th in an ongoing series of tribute paintings of Emily Dickinson (one of them being in the  heading pic at the top of this blog)


The following is my auction description...:

"The Butterfly Upon the Sky"

My entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC), the theme for June being "Butterflies", features a portrait in wee loving tribute to the classic American poet, Emily Dickinson....

Painted in oils upon a 5"x 7" wooden plaque with beveled corners, this original is signed and ready to hang. 

****NOTE: 50% of the proceeds for this auction will be going to the non-profit Monarch Watch, a monarch butterfly conservation organization.  I will also mail some milkweed seeds along with this painting if the winning bidder is interested....

(*NOTE:  This is for a 5-Day Auction)

While my entry for this month's Nibblefest is a wee tribute to a fabulous American poet, Emily Dickinson, it is also in tribute to a fabulous American butterfly species, the Monarch.  Which unfortunately, I'm very sad to say, is decreasing in numbers, to the point of becoming alarming. I can hardly wrap my mind around this, remembering as I do just how ubiquitous they were in my youth.  Monarch butterflies were EVERYWHERE here in the Midwest when I was a kid. No longer common where I live (or anywhere for that matter), it's actually becoming rare to see that striking bold flash of orange and black Monarch wings, as they become endangered.  So sad.

But all is not hopeless.  The primary reason for the Monarch's disappearing act is due to decreasing availability of the Milkweed plant.  Monarch butterflies need Milkweed to survive, being as that it is the ONE and ONLY plant upon which they can lay their eggs, for their caterpillars to feed. Loss of native habitat and tracts of Milkweed plants are pushing our lovely Monarch to extinction.  But we have it in our power to help!  How...???  Plant Milkweed in your yard or garden for one.  There are many varieties of the plant, and while it doesn't exactly have the reputation for being ornamental, it can actually be considerably more attractive than it's given credit for.  And if you plant it, they will come!  I've planted it for years and have had great luck....

Back to the poet, Emily Dickinson. I was inspired here by her poem,
"The Butterfly Upon the Sky" (the first lines of which is written around the side/perimeter of the plaque):

The Butterfly upon the Sky,
That doesn't know its Name
And hasn't any tax to pay
And hasn't any Home
Is just as high as you and I,
And higher, I believe,
So soar away and never sigh
And that's the way to grieve -
~Emily Dickinson


Interesting last line of her poem, eh?  I promise you I will be grieving indeed to lose our lovely Monarch butterfly.  But we will not let things get to that point!  Let's all do our share to help.  Plant Milkweed.  Donate.  Create awareness. 

And, as mentioned above, please note that 50% of the proceeds of this auction will be donated to the conservation organization, Monarch Watch.

So here's hoping you enjoy my entry as much as I did painting it...! 

I've been asked about her 'floating crown'.  Well, I included a crown as a nod to The Monarch, and also to 'crown' Miss Emily D. as the 'queen' of American poetry.  Only we Americans rejected Monarchical rule, so I couldn't actually have it depicted UPON her head, now could I...?  ;-)

 So there you have it.  I painted my own version of  a"Butterfly Upon the Sky", depicted as she is resting upon a Milkweed plant.  This particular variety of Milkweed is known as Swamp Milkweed, a rather unfortunate moniker for what is actually one of the more "ornamental" varieties of Milkweed, with its showy pink blossoms and slim tapered leaves.  I've been growing this particular variety for years with really great luck (and several generations of Monarchs!).  Or, I should say I HAD been growing it.  After many consecutive years of successful plantings, one season, after a particularly harsh winter I think, my milkweed didn't come up at all.  That started a several-year stretch of no milkweed whatsoever in my yard, because I didn't have seeds, nor access to seedlings (plus this particular variety of 'weed' not actually being all that invasive).  But I'm happy to say that last year, a wee volunteer milkweed seedling baby popped up -- what a pleasant little surprise!  I had not deliberately planted it, so I figure it must have lain dormant for several years before finally deciding to sprout? The location was not ideal either -- a rather shady spot, and in the gravel along my driveway no less.  I didn't want to disturb it though, so I left it be, and am happy to say it's grown and is doing well so far.  This is what it looks like today...:

Behold:  The ever lovely, and Monarch attracting, Swamp Milkweed

As you can see, no flowers yet (though buds are appearing at the top).  But it doesn't need blossoms to attract Monarchs.  Here's hoping they are able to find it this year!  Come to think of it, I haven't actually seen any Monarchs in my yard yet this season, sadly they are actually that rare nowadays -- but let's hope in any case.  And please further note that the winning bidder of this auction will have the option of my sending him or her some Swamp Milkweed seeds along with the painting.  Throw the seeds in your yard and give them a try -- or, if you are renting, into an ugly vacant lot or something in your area.  I intend to become the Johnny Appleseed of Milkweed, lol -- just spreading the loooooove....!

Long live Emily Dickinson and The Monarch Butterfly....!