Artist Leslie Rowland is at work on a series of paintings that highlight our local fauna and their active role in the health of the ecosystem. “The Gifts They Bring” currently includes large-scale acrylic paintings featuring a Great Blue Heron, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Great Horned Owl and a Barn Owl. “I have never doubted the sentience of animals and have never questioned their innate value, completely independent from any value that humans place on them,” says Rowland. That said, Rowland recognizes that humans tend to value things for their usefulness. “The purpose of this series is to familiarize people with the services that the subject animals provide, with the intention that people will become endeared to the subjects and will strive to protect them.”
The paintings depict snapshots of each animal participating in an ecological relationship: the Great Horned Owl, which preys on species that damage orchards, clutches a flowering apple tree branch in his talons. An in-progress work shows a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird taking nectar from—and simultaneously pollinating—a salvia flower. “Hummingbirds not only keep insect populations under control, they are also responsible for pollinating 150 of the 200 nectar-producing flowers in North America,” says Rowland. “The hummingbird’s gift is over 7,000 species of nectar-producing plants. For a tiny bird, this is a pretty big gift.”
Rowland hopes the images will connect viewers with these animals and inspire protection of their lives and habitats. “An aware and educated public makes good decisions,” she says. “Protecting our natural places and the species that inhabit them is not just a nice thing to do, it’s necessary for our survival. We are seeing a lot of development in our mountains, and I hope we can influence our local decision makers to create policies that protect our wild places and wild things.”
Find Rowland’s work at her studio gallery in suite 3A of the Phil Mechanic Studios, located at 109 Roberts Street in the River Arts District. For more information, visit LRowlandArt.com.