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Monday, December 14, 2015

Day 61: Mirror Lake & Taft Point (8/4/15)

A few notes about this day. I read more from Yosemite: Art of an American Icon and learned that the valley's native inhabitants were pictorially portrayed as "exotic decorations," which established this dynamic between visitors and Native people (Bierstadt took part in this by frequently showing native camps in the foreground of his paintings). I think it's a tricky subject...were they being exploited in his paintings? Were their depictions educational? Were the renderings accurate or did they perpetuate stereotypes for people back east? What is the best way to represent native peoples in paintings of landscapes they inhabited long before the "white man" came? Perhaps it was an homage to the native Miwoks for their work maintaining the health and diversity of the valley's ecosystems. I'm not sure if Bierstadt was aware of their role in the landscape or how much he interacted with them during his visits (I'm sure more reading will tell me). What was John Muir's relationship with the Miwocks? 

"In the Yosemite envisioned by painters and photographers, the region's native population is cast aside, relegated most often to the corners of pictures as decorations in an otherwise 'untouched' wilderness; in this Yosemite, Indians inhabit the valley without affecting it, and they exist primarily for the viewing pleasure of whites."

I've looked into several artist residencies that have an emphasis on environmental stewardship, performing a labor of love to preserve and maintain a landscape. Our park rangers and volunteers do this every day for our parks...anyway, maybe that's a good way to better understand the landscape as native people did, to labor for it. I am again reminded of a take away from the National Parks documentary...people called this land home long before the national park was a national park.

Painting today, I met Joe and Natalie from Sydney, Australia. They were so nice and told me Dan and I should visit Australia, not New Zealand for our honeymoon. Photographer Jim and I talked shop about Hudson River School painters. Early photographers didn't have the technology to capture detail in the sky, so paintings still helped (and still do) tell the whole story of a landscape. He was doing some last minute training for the JMT. An Italian family walked by and the mom told the little boy that I was painting for my profession, and the boy looked at me and said "professionale!" Super compliment! Another man walked by and said "It is going to be classic." One couple tipped me $10. All in all, a pretty hopping place to paint today.

The Taft Point photos are worth thousands of words...the edge of the earth, stunning view of the valley, so many visual layers to the landscape. And even more quality time with mom and dad. 

Ready to go!

I was worried the lake would be dried up - but still enough water for mirror-like reflections.

Basket Dome.

A friendly visitor.

One of my favorite pictures from the trip. Yosemite is an epic place to paint.

Happy my Paparazzi Parents are here to get some action shots!

Tricky to find a good spot to paint where I could see both mountain and reflection.
Taft Point.

On the hike to Taft Point.
The edge of the world...
What a view!
Hi, mom!
Wishing I had time to paint here.
Yosemite valley.
Boot selfie. Bootfie? 
Such rugged rock.
Had time for a quick sketch.
Spent more time just observing and absorbing the scene than sketching.
That little speck is me with my arms thrown in the air at the magnificence of it all!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Day 60: Bridalveil Falls & Finish Upper and Lower Falls (8/3/15)

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

My morning was a bit different with my parents here. They were up and making coffee before I even emerged from my tent! I wasn't in a big rush today. My dad heated water for oatmeal (very nice) and I worked on finishing a few blog posts. We got going into the valley after I finished. They are being great about going with the flow and working around my "schedule" aka "playing it fast and loose."

We started off at Bridalveil Fall and it is stunning even with low water flow. There really is barely any water going over the fall, but the little water is so delicate and lace like and the water dances in the wind. The sun obscures the view of the fall and I had to keep moving closer and closer to escape it shining in my eyes. The rock face is sheer and small streams of water wake their way down the rock face. The water dancing in the wind is so beautiful, with the sun behind it. I can honestly say it reminds me of my wedding veil. Speaking of which...Dan and I get married two months from today! Crazy and awesome and exciting.

After this my parents and I parted ways. I went to finish my painting of the Upper and Lower Falls (before the water runs out!) and my parents went to hike Vernal Falls. It felt so good to be out again with my paint pack. I got to my quiet spot along the Merced River and ate lunch. Just as I was getting ready to set up my painting Supplies a family of seven, speaking a language I couldn't place, came and set up a picnic. It turns out they are Israeli and incredibly kind and generous. There were five children...the oldest girl around 9, then a boy around 7, a girl around 5, and twin boy and girl around 2 or 3 years old. The oldest boy came over after I'd been painting a while and offered me hot tea. How could I say no?! The tea was delicious with a fresh mint leaf. Minty and sweet. Then the dad said, "Friend, come eat with us!" and I sat and enjoyed omelettes and corn and all kinds of picnic foods. They all had beautiful names with meanings. I can't remember them, but one meant something to do with singing, and another was sunshine of God. I tickled the youngest boy's feet (tickling is the same in every language). They played in the water and threw mud at each other and ran around. It was very joyous and it just warmed my heart to see such a lovely family spending time together. Before I left the oldest girl came over and gave me an Oreo. My heart is full!

Behind the scenes, morning look at me blogging/researching...
To show how close he was.
Leocat or Bobcat?
Very little water cascading over the falls. Hard to see because the sun kept rising and peeking just over the top of the falls.
Cute petite mom with some big giant rocks.
More of the view beneath the falls.
Here's where the light got interesting...the lit water danced in the wind at the top of the falls.
Very veil-like.
A quick sketch with some notes.
Look at it dance!
Nature is amazing.
It's just water, wind, and light...but look what's created.
Off to finish my painting of Yosemite Falls.
Paint Pack in action.
Finished painting! Very happy with it.
It sure is nice to have Chef Dad at camp with me.
Mmm, chicken foil dinners. Life is good.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 58 & 59: Merced to Yosemite (8/1/15, 8/2/15)

Day 58 consisted of grocery shopping, driving to a small town outside Yosemite, and seeing Mission Impossible. Day 59 was more exciting because we got to YOSEMITE! And we got a campsite at Tamarack Flat, a really beautiful spot next to a granite boulder/hill thing. Next we decided to explore the valley and visit some of the museums and visitor center I'd been waiting to go see with them. A gallery in one museum even had Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt paintings! We ventured on to the Upper and Lower Falls, which still have water, but less than when I started my painting last week. We found a bench and sat for a while and watched the falls...very peaceful. Funny how you can get tired slow-walking through museums all day.

Later that night we went to a program at the park theater (I told you arts are alive here - there's a program every night of the week) called "Ranger Shelton Johnson: Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier." I recognized his picture from the National Parks documentary by Ken Burns. So I wanted to see him! He's basically a celebrity! I maybe should have paid more attention to the subject after his name because the history of the Buffalo Soldier wasn't high on my agenda for this trip. He gave a vivid performance but parts seemed like he was taking an hour and a half to tell a story that could be told in about fifteen minutes.

So, in honor of the documentary that inspired us seeing this show, I want to give a little background on Yosemite that I wasn't able to do with Yellowstone. Yosemite was originally set aside at a state park under the care and control of California, and I believe the third national park after the idea caught on. In the mid and late 1800s, travel to Yosemite required a two day trip from San Fransisco, then a "grueling" 2-3 day trek in the mountains by foot or horseback. Frederick Law Olmsted wrote that Yosemite was "the greatest glory of nature...the union of the deepest sublimity with the deepest beauty." Theodore Roosevelt spent several nights in the park with John Muir, rejecting a lavish banquet and feast that had been planned for him, opting to sleep outdoors. There is also a long history of native peoples who lived and worked in the valley, well known for their elaborate and intricate basket weaving. Again, many different perspectives at play in the history of the park (only briefly touching on a fraction of them). I feel blessed to be here on my own journey.

Tamarack Flat campsite. Recently paved road three miles down to the campsite was a bonus.
Awesome mural in the visitors center.
Me and Muir, again.
Thomas Moran painting of Bridalveil Fall.
Dark and moody Bierstadt painting of the valley at night.
Upper and Lower Falls.
Aww, mom and dad!
Taking it easy at a bench with a view of the falls.
What is that rope/string on the Arrow?
Serenaded by Ranger Shelton Johnson.