On Watch communicates the scrutiny under which crows and ravens hold their world, observing human behavior even as they are observed. (Tony Angell courtesy photo)

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When I review images of my successful stone carvings from the past 50 years, I realize that they all seem to have been initiated from a strong personal motivation.  

The shape of the stone picked up from a river bed immediately suggested something in motion or a familiar form that only required modest refinement to be realized. Other work has been driven by my emotions at the time—sometimes romantic, others heartfelt and even angry. Even the sheer pleasure of physically working with the shaping of the stone can be compelling. 

Among my sculptures that provide me some enduring satisfaction are those that provide some permanence to the memory of a moment I’ve observed in nature—a falcon launching into flight, a shorebird foraging or at ease on a warm beach, or a pair of ravens in courtship. Such is the case with the work On Watch.

Crows and ravens have fascinated me much of my life. There’s an undeniable kinship between these birds and people, as I’ve discovered when researching these species and our cultural histories.  

One could call it a mutual dependency as the prehistoric records of campsites and settlements reveal that early humans have been in the company of these species for tens of thousands of years. Many human cultures have incorporated them into their creation myths, conceived artistic tributes and translated their calls to receive messages that the birds deliver. They solve problems, use tools and have sophisticated social arrangements. With all this in their histories, we are still only at the threshold of understanding the full range of their intelligence and behaviors.

So with my carving On Watch I’ve commemorated a moment where I witnessed and sensed the intensity that the birds applied to engage the world around them.  At times I’ve been the subject of their scrutiny and they followed my every move; sometimes it seemed to me they knew of it before I was conscious of what I’d done. 

What do they see? How do they interpret it? And what are their responses to it? In my experience art can be that essential bridge that brings us into a more complete understanding of Nature and our place in it.   

—Contributed by Tony Angell

For Artist’s Corner, Salish Current welcomes readers to share images that capture the spirit of our natural and built environments—including the creatures and people who live here. Submittals must be works in your possession and not promotional. Please contact Salish Current to let us know what you’d like to share and why.

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photo: Amy Nelson © 2022
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