IMAGE OF THE WEEK
© Durga Yael Bernhard
The Shared Bounty
Here in rural upstate New York, it’s the middle of archery season. You don’t see too many bow hunters these days. I used to be one myself, before my third child was born. Bow hunting requires far more practice, precision, preparation and follow-up than hunting with a rifle. It’s also more gratifying, and puts the hunter in much closer communion with their animal of prey, and with the environment that supports them. In order to shoot from such close range (just 15-25 yards), you must become part of the forest.
This image was painted on birch bark taken from a tree that I saw from my hunting stand. Deer hunting requires many hours of patient stillness, waiting and watching silently, scanning the forest for signs of motion. I became very familiar with everything around me, and felt very much part of the food chain of which we are all a part – whether we cultivate and harvest, raise and slaughter, hunt and kill, or simply buy our food.
I began by separating the bark into thin sheets, then gluing it down on matboard to make it lay flat. I love working on birch bark. It resists moisture, yet does not cause paint to bead up. My preferred medium at the time was gouache, a flat, water-based paint that contrasts beautifully with the slightly shiny surface of birch bark. I use the inner side of the bark, which has a lovely burnished golden-brown color.
Wild meat is highly nutritious, woven from the many wild plants that make up a deer’s diet. Here I imagined the food chain as concentric circles, with the wonderfully nourishing red clover that is one of their favorite foods, at the center of the deer. I was so grateful for the complex nutrients of spring and summer that were transformed into the venison my children and I ate through the winter. This wild, organic meat from an animal who ran free until the moment of its death was an incredible gift – a blessing and bounty to be shared with family and friends.
The bounty was shared in yet another way when this painting was copied as a mural in the hallway of a high school in Arkansas several years later, for an art project that combined hunting and art. I could relate to that! I was honored when the art teacher wrote to ask my permission, and later shared a photo of the students’ accomplishment.
Wishing you a good week,