“A Murder of Crows”
Artist StatementA Murder of Crows – a poetic way to describe a flock of crows dating back to the 15th century.
Crows are very intelligent animals. What many people don’t know about crows is that some have learned not only to use tools, but to make tools as well. Crows and ravens are included in the same “Corvidae” species, which is believed to have evolved in central Asia. Crows can distinguish between humans, and the sequences and length of their caws is how they communicate, and warn each other when a “bad” human is approaching. In recent years, crows have taken to the suburbs to live, as there is an abundance of food and shelter, and few dangers. In some areas they have become a public nuisance due to their sheer numbers and the excessive noise they make.
In mythical traditions the crow is seen in a variety of roles. In Australia it is believed to be a trickster, a cultural hero and ancestral being. In Irish and Cornish folklore it is associated with the “otherworld” and even a bringer of death. In Hindu cosmology an old sage by the name of Bhusunda lived in the form of a crow in a wish-fulfilling tree. In ancient Greek fables crows are described as vain, stupid and seeking shiny things.
In my own spiritual practice crows had told me about accidents and deaths. Then, in the year 2000 my sister fell ill, and was diagnosed with an inoperable, fast-growing, stage 4 brain tumor. When I went to see her, I noticed she had several paintings of big, black birds. The ravens were talking to her in the last few months of her life and she began to paint them. Several years after she passed, I was privileged to observe a flock of crows in an undisturbed environment and was able to photograph them going about their normal activities. In honor of my sisters life and artwork, as well as my own process of coming to terms with my sister’s passing, I used those photographs to create a little black book of crows.
Earlier this year I showed this book to my painting teacher Ari Kate Ashton, who encouraged me to paint the series of crows. At the same time I started the painting project, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. While going through the medical treatments, I reconnected with the crow spirit and worked on bringing their mystical presence to the canvasses you see here. For me the story has come full circle, as finishing these paintings and showing them is part of my own healing process from cancer.
Art has always been important in my life from the first time I picked up a crayon at the age of three. But it is through this difficult and transformative experience that art has taken on a special meaning in my own healing process. Creating art is what sustains my heart and soul. It allows me to live fully engaged in the moment, and in creative flow with the universe. When I paint, I don’t have to think about what the future holds or how long I may or may not live. When I paint, I can leave my fears and my hopes on the canvass, and express emotions that are difficult to explain in words.
It is my hope that you enjoy the show, and that you perhaps find an inner connection to one of these paintings. May my healing journey inspire you to create beauty and health in your own life.
Photos from the Opening Reception at the San Diego Art Department