Gulf Oil Slick

Gulf Oil Slick, 2010, 13" x 10", 33cm x 25.5cm, mixed media on canvas (click for a very large size)

no birds, insects, or animals,
nothing but the sludge-brown sea
smacking under the red sun
a rotted post that was once a dock

can we sacrifice our oil-hungry cars, our plastics,
the petroleum
of our lives

for the fish to frolic
the birds diving
while children build buckets of castles
on seafoamed sand?

(photo to right from NASA, satellite image May 1, 2010)
We need to rant. We need to get good and furious with ourselves, with manufacturers, with oil companies. These accidents are so huge that they continue to decimate the eden that is the birthright of every creature on earth. When I painted the sludge, I knew it was the oil slick... bubbling up in my vision, so far inland, so many thousands of miles away.

The painting is oils (oil paint is made from pigments mixed with linseed oil, which is from flax seeds), except that brown slick which is acrylic. Crude oil is used in the manufacture of acrylic polymers. While I know that there are many additives for acrylic paints that enable different effects so that it can look like watercolour or oil paints, I don't particularly like them except for underpainting because they dry quickly. This image was composed of leftover oil paint, scraped on with a palette knife, except at the end when I painted in the sun, so of excesses on my palette. The sludge of brown that represents the oil spill devastating the Gulf ocean and the coastlines of Louisiana is a scraping of acrylic paint, a plastic polymer which requires crude oil in its manufacture. It is what it represents, we could say.
And what if: "What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is about to open a direct link to the molten core of the planet that we may not be able to control; much as the fallen being above, having become paralyzed by his obsession with the weight of his excessive dreams, now finds himself starring down into the unknown abyss of his own creation-the world may soon find itself nearly powerless before the primeval forces that we have allowed BP to disturb in the unholy name of private-profits over the survivability of this planet." Jim Kirwan, Declaring War on the Universe?

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  1. i love this, brenda, through and through. i like "didatic little poems". :>>)))

  2. Thank you, my dear... the disaster is unfolding with ever-increasing proportions, the slick tripled in size since yesterday, the coral reefs, the delicate marshes, let alone the fish and the wildlife. If we said no to oil-based products, it would not be commercially feasible to mine oil fields under the ocean. Oh!

    So much to be truly depressed about. :-(

  3. Excellent work, Brenda, and especially perhaps the use of the sludge-like acrylic paint. So appropriate. The sun is like a compassionate figure too far away to intervene.

  4. Stirling, I love the image you use to describe the sun. Yes, in this barren seascape, the sun is a lone figure...

  5. [from ning site]

    Comment by Brenda Clews on May 23, 2010 at 10:47pm

    Thanks, John... wasn't really 'a project' and certainly not reflecting the horrors that have ensued from the time I wrote this... this little post seems tame now, too tame... :) xoxoxxoo

    Comment by John F Walter on May 23, 2010 at 5:39pm

    The painting sets up a powerful mood of tension which the poem releases in a rhetorical worthy of Rachel Carson. I like the symmetry you've attained between aesthetic form and emotional polemic here, Brenda! Impassioned and yet balanced.


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