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Children of the Rains Exhibit

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BC: Nancy Rynes PO Box 17067 Boulder, CO 80308 PH: 207.420.9909 NancyRynes.com nancyr_artist@live.com

FC: Nancy Rynes | Children of the Rains Exhibit | October 2013

1: Nancy Rynes was born and raised in rural Illinois and moved to Colorado in 1992. From an early age her parents had taken the family west during the summers to camp, fish, and hike in the Four Corners states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Being outdoors among the canyons, deserts, rivers, and Native cultures of the American Southwest as a child continues to have a lasting influence on her work. Nancy studied fine art at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and later went on to study Geology and Archaeology at Northern Illinois University and the University of Colorado. Her studies under Dr. William Fasch, an expert in Mayan culture, is a heavy influence on her Fusion 2-3 series, as are her Native roots (Sauk/Fox). After moving to Colorado, she pursued her love of art and studied oil painting under noted artists Ralph Oberg, Dan Young, Matt Smith, and Chris Alvarez. Learning the rigors of outdoor painting from these artists greatly influenced her use of bold brushwork, color, and light/shadow in her own paintings. Nancy still paints from life when possible - she believes it's an exercise that keeps her tuned in to the colors and patterns of light as it really exists outdoors, not simply in how a camera captures it. Nancy has been honored with several one-person shows, as well as awards in juried competitions. Her work has been included in shows such as Art of the Animal Kingdom, Arts for the Parks, OPA National, International Exhibition on Animals in Art, Salon International, and many other national and regional juried shows and competitions. Her work was included in the books 100 Ways to Paint Your Favorite Subjects and The Madaba Plains Project: Forty Years of Research into Jordan's Past. | NancyRynes.com NancyR_Artist@live.com (207) 420-9909

2: Stories of Her Ancestors Oil on Textured Panel, 24"x36" A young Native American woman stands in front of a panel of rock art painted by her ancestors. The rock paintings are from the very ancient “Barrier Canyon” culture. We don’t really know much about these people, including what they called themselves or who their descendants are, except that they lived in the area of what we now call the “Four Corners” and may have been of the “Archaic” time (~7000 BCE to ~500 CE). These Archaic people of the Southwestern US appeared to be mostly hunting animals and gathering native plants for food, shelter, and clothing. They were likely nomadic and subject to the rains and the seasons just as we still are today. As rains came and went, and seasons changed, these people moved from one area to another in their search for food and easier living conditions. This young woman pauses in front of art left by her family generations ago. The art looks to show hunting scenes - we see some atlatls, used for throwing spears. Small mammals climb up natural lines in the rock. Birds fly above the scene, and horned snakes slither around the scene. I’d like to think this young woman knows the stories depicted here, and that she tells them to her children and grandchildren someday.

3: Discovery Oil on Textured Panel, 24"x36" As someone who really enjoys the companionship of dogs, I find it heartening that people coming to the Americas 15,000 or more years ago, came with dogs. Recent genetic evidence shows that the dogs of Native America were of Asian origin. Truly humanity’s best friend. It seems that the artist(s) who painted this original rock art panel over 1,000 years ago thought the same thing - they painted canids of all shapes and sizes interspersed with human figured and handprints. Some of these canids are undoubtedly dogs, others may be coyotes or foxes. Dogs made life easier for ancient Americans - they offered protection, help with hunting and with carrying loads, and of course friendship and companionship. What more could a person ask for in a friend?

4: Canyon Song Oil on Textured Panel, 24"x24" All through the Southwestern US, on canyon walls and large boulders, you have the chance of seeing rock art depicting the little fluteplayer we refer to today as Kokopelli. He's rather charming - playing a flute, carrying a pack of some kind on his back (or does he have a hunchback?) and, in this case, accompanied by a little dog. Stories about Kokopelli abound, but my favorite comes from the Zuni who see him as the bringer of rains and the one who carries and distributes seeds for the tribes to plant in their fields. The canyons of the Southwest also host another little musician - the Canyon Wren - whose descending trills seem to be Nature's answer to Kokopelli’s flute. This little wren seems to have found a perfect spot to sing.

5: Offerings Oil on Textured Panel, 18"x18" Another hike through the wildlands of New Mexico brings us to a cliff face at sunrise on the summer solstice. If we look in just the right spot in the rocks, we see not only a “sun dagger,” but also precious objects left by ancient visitors. I started the painting knowing that I wanted to create a piece incorporating a sun dagger, then imagined it had a small, natural shelf in front of it. I thought this might be a spot where ancient people may have placed things that were somehow important to them - offerings to spirits, or remembrances of a life well-lived, or of loved ones of the past. This painting incorporates many items important or sacred to the ancients - pottery, turquoise, cowrie shells, twig figures, and corn. Corn was, and is, both sacred and important to the peoples of the Americas. It was a dietary staple for many tribes, allowing for the development of several important civilizations including the Maya, Aztecs, Puebloan cultures, and Cahokia.

6: OUR FINAL DAYS IN EUROPE

7: Rainbird (left) Dreams of Flight (top) Oil on Textured Panel, 20"x24" and 30"x20"

8: OUR FINAL DAYS IN EUROPE | One tale that unites Native North American cultures are those of Thunderbirds and thunder beings. From what is now Alaska through Canada, east to the Atlantic coast, and south even to New Mexico and the southeastern tribes, Thunderbird stories of one form or another are almost as common as stories of Coyote. Ancient people left depictions of Thunderbird-like symbols on the rocks all over the continent. In these tales, the Thunderbird is a large bird that wields much power by causing storms that carry thunder, wind, and rain. The clap of its wings causes the thunder, and lightning comes from its eyes. In ancient times, the North American continent hosted several types of condors, larger than the California and Andean condors of today. Perhaps early Americans witnessed the flights of some of the last of these Pleistocene giants, and the legend was born. While I’ll never know where the legend originated, I can enjoy the tales and the art they inspired. In this image I speculate that perhaps the tales of Thunderbird in the Pacific Northwest originated from errant Steller’s Sea Eagles that wander into North America from Asia on occasion. These birds, larger than the American Bald Eagle, do look almost like small aircraft in the skies. I can understand how seeing such a large bird coming out of cloudy or stormy skies might inspire some rather fantastic stories. The Steller's Sea Eagle here is shown with a petroglyph of a Thunderbird from near Prince Rupert, BC, Canada.

9: Legends Oil on Textured Panel, 30"x24"

10: OUR FINAL DAYS IN EUROPE | Making our way through a jungle-covered ancient city in Honduras, we come upon an ancient Mayan sculpture of a reclining god - the "God of the Night Sun." A Jaguar rests in front, on what used to be steps leading to a temple or public building. Why is the Jaguar here? What does the sculpture mean? Are the two connected somehow? The ancient Maya revered the Jaguar for its strength and power - kings took it as part of their names and gods were often associated with this great cat. Here we find out that the God of the Night Sun was also known as the Jaguar God of Fire and War. Ah, we start to see the the connection. One of the great cats, the Jaguar is nocturnal, stealthy, and deadly. The spots on its coat bring to mind the stars of the night sky. It may seem as though the ancient Maya culture didn't have much concern for rain - we picture their part of Mesoamerica as being a rainy, lush rainforest. Unfortunately for them, this wasn't the case. Rains in Mesoamerica are seasonal and drought is not unusual. The soils aren't terribly fertile after long periods of farming and can be overstressed easily. The area is defined by these alternating periods of rain and drought. Some evidence seems to indicate that the stress of drought on a burgeoning urban population contributed to the changes in the Classic Maya culture, including the depopulation of many cities after 800CE. Artistically, I started this painting knowing that I wanted a Jaguar in it since they were strongly associated with Maya royalty. The God of the Night Sun made his presence felt only later in the process.

11: God of the Night Sun Oil on Textured Panel, 24"x30"

12: OUR FINAL DAYS IN EUROPE | With these pieces, I want you to imagine yourself wandering among some Late Classic Maya ruins. The heat and humidity are stifling here among the stones, but you can ignore that because you're captivated by all of the hieroglyphs you see. They're on building facades, sculptures, stelae, stairways, almost everywhere, and you wonder what they all mean. For many decades we didn't know the meanings of the glyphs but today, a core of dedicated researchers are able to decipher many of them, and we now have a slightly better understanding of the ancient Maya. "Lord of the Winds" is a depiction of the Mayan God of the Wind who seems to have large teeth or fangs. I've paired him with a male Rufous Mot-Mot, a beautiful bird of the Mesoamerican forest who also has teeth of a sort (a serrated bill). In my mind, the two seemed to fit well together. The glyph of the Divine Lady was a glyph for Lady Ixik Uh-Chamil of Yaxchilan. She is certainly beautiful with the beads in her hair. I'm not sure where the male Toucan came from - he just showed up in my Vision for this painting and would not leave until I put him in the place of honor.

13: Lord of the Winds (left) Divine Lady (top) Oil on Textured Panel, each is 11"x14"

14: OUR FINAL DAYS IN EUROPE | I read somewhere that the ancient Maya believed the spirits of warriors who died would be turned into butterflies. I'm not sure the story is accurate, but it makes for nice painting subjects. I thought Monarch Butterflies would be appropriate for the spirits of an emperor and empress. How were the ancient Mesoamericans connected to those people further north, in the wide-open deserts and plains of western North America? Monarch Butterflies are one common thread since their short life is defined by the migration to and from Central America. Another tie is trade routes. The ancient Mesoamericans traded with their counterparts further north. Archaeologists have found evidence of cacao (chocolate) use in pottery vessels found at Chaco Canyon. Macaws and their feathers were traded northward from Mesoamerica, as were copper, obsidian, and other materials. In ancient times, people all across North America interacted with eachother They traded, talked, moved, and possibly shared aspects of their cultures and stories. Not much is different today, except the absence of iPads and Facebook in 900 CE.

15: Great Sun Emperor (left) Eastern Empress (top) Oil on Textured Panel, each is 9" x12"

16: Not everything needs to be symbolic or have deep meaning - I painted these pieces for the pure fun of doing them. I wanted a chance to play with paint, composition, and texture. The Ocelot shows us the boneless napping of a cat, and the Red-Tailed Hawk seems to be the definition of intense focus. | Power Nap Oil on Textured Panel, 16"x16"

17: Red-Tailed Hawk Study Oil on Panel, 20"x16"

18: Confluence Oil on Textured Panel, 20"x24"

19: Espiritu Oil on Textured Panel, 24"x30" | Today, we continue to make our marks on our surroundings. Now our medium may be spray paint on concrete, but I suspect the reasons we paint them are similar: to tell stories, to send messages to others, to stake a claim, to express to everyone that "I was here."

20: We finish this journey where it all started - Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks. Visiting both of these magnificent places over the past few decades has both informed and inspired the group of paintings in this exhibit. My thanks to the ancient and modern people of both of these places for being my primary muses on this journey.

21: Spirits of Chaco Oil on Panel, 30"x20"

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Nancy Rynes
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  • Title: Children of the Rains Exhibit
  • Catalog for the Children of the Rains exhibit by Nancy Rynes (Lafayette, Colorado)
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  • Published: about 6 years ago