18 x 16 in | 45.7 x 40.6 cm
Hiking in the hills above the sea on the California Coast, I found this little Morning Glory clinging to dry stalks of grass. The petals seemed too delicate to compete in such a harsh environment. It made a direct hit on my protective instinct. How bravely it seemed to hold onto the grass on this dry, windswept hill.
After finishing the painting I reached for my flower guide certain that it would confirm my discovery of some rare and delicate native beauty. Here’s a summary of what Wikipedia has to say about Convolvulus arvensis (“Field Bindweed”).
Although it produces attractive flowers, it is often unwelcome in gardens as a nuisance weed due to its rapid growth and choking of cultivated plants. It is one of the most serious weeds of agricultural fields in temperate regions of the world. Its dense mats invade agricultural fields and reduce crop yields; it is estimated that crop losses due to this plant in the United States exceeded US $377 million in the year 1998 alone. It was most likely introduced into North America as a contaminant in crop seed as early as 1739, as an invasive species. It intertwines and topples native species, and competes with other species for sunlight, moisture and nutrients. It is difficult to eradicate because the seeds remain viable in soil for up to 20 years and one plant can produce up to 500 seeds! The deep, extensive root system stores carbohydrates and proteins and allows it to sprout repeatedly from fragments and rhizomes following removal of aboveground growth. It’s even toxic to cattle.
It’s a monster! I had to laugh at myself. This little vine challenged my moralistic principle of painting only plants in their natural habitat. It forced me to choose between two perspectives—art or environment. I asked myself, as a dedicated environmentalist, if I had known about the history of this vine would have painted it? My answer was “yes”. Aren’t there beautiful faces in a rogue’s gallery? Besides, this tough little plant was here before the United States was a country. Doesn’t that give it some “native” status? And art is in the eyes of the beholder. In this composition it evokes my sympathy.