MARIPOSA NOCTURNA (Moth)
© 2000 Keith Halonen oil on panel 48×30 in / 122×76 cm $ 24,000 US
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As my back door opened out onto our ivy-covered panoply it lay fluttering at my feet, apparently lifeless. It was the size of my palm. I'd never before seen a moth so large and so beautiful in this region. When I stooped to pick it up it twitched. I placed it on a perch out of the wind.
It was grounded again the following morning, and the day after as well. I restored it to its perch the second time, but it seemed to be ailing and I speculated it had been stung by a small spider, not enough to kill it outright. Paralyzed and slowly dying, it spent its final day as I prepared a large panel to begin painting it.
At the USGS Moths of California website 10 minutes of scorched earth searching finally yielded up an identifying moth image labeled as Antherća Polyphemus, a rare sighting in this area, as the local university has only two specimens. According to the USGS, Polyphemus emerges from its chrysalis in the morning, has sex and lays its eggs that same day, and then spends the next three or four days all dressed up with no place to go.
Detail from MARIPOSA NOCTURNA (Moth)
A number of artist acquaintences have confronted me with the baseless proposition that since my work is so photographic in quality I should have simply decided to be a photographer.
I assure them that while I have no intention of going into abstract art, I do get my fill of abstraction during the painting process. Reality is filled with abstract imagery, and when one is standing inches from the easel working stipple and scumble for tonal effect, those nebulous qualities are undeniable.
These images were deliberately isolated from their contiguous relationship to the whole Mariposa Nocturna painting. They are testimony to the abstract imagery which every day surrounds us in a world we take too much for granted as hard-edged perspective-based straight-line reality.
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