IMAGE OF THE WEEK
© D. YAEL BERNHARD
Raptor Dream was painted in gouache and acrylic on a full sheet of heavyweight watercolor paper – 30″ x 22″. For many years, this was my preferred medium. Transparent washes were layered over each other, contrasting with solid areas of color.
This particular painting was influenced by a Siberian folktale that my then-writing partner and husband, Emery Bernhard, had adapted and retold as a children’s book titled How Snowshoe Hare Rescued the Sun (Holiday House, 1993). We were drawn to this story for its shamanic content – a classic tale of the disappearance of the sun from the arctic world, followed by a descent into the underworld, the triumph of humility over ego, and the return of the light. All of this was represented by animal characters.
In order to research this book, I spent weeks learning about the Inuit people and their Siberian counterparts, the Yuit. I fell in love with the stark simplicity of their bold and powerful artwork – prints, carvings, textiles and masks – that so perfectly reflected the people and landscape from which these creations emerged. Of particular interest were the tiny masks that formed finger puppets – essential tools for storytelling through the long, dark winter. This became the basis for the face in my painting. I imagined a hunter-shaman, desperate to feed his family, who transforms himself into an eagle. Carrying his children on his back, he dives into a sea of prey – animals in abundance that give up their lives in order to feed his hungry family – a raptor’s dream come true.