Sally Duback: Artist in Residence at Spirit Lake Preserve
November 7, 2021 | Topics: featured artist
The Natural Realm presents Sally Duback, who is among 17 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy, Tall Pines Conservancy, and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.
Artist statement by Sally Duback
A small treasure I stumbled upon forty years ago. I lived less than a mile away. Riding my horse bareback through the nearby fox farm into a large woodland, I found a path, which I followed. It was a crisp fall day with a dramatic October sky. The path sloped up to a clearing with a pond and a little rustic cottage. It didn’t seem as though anyone lived there, so I decided to ride through to the long gravel driveway which led to the main road. A guilty trespasser, I drank in the songs of birds, the unmistakable clicking sounds of rustling fall foliage and milkweed. It was exhilarating to have found this place so close to my home; so tranquil. I was reminded of my childhood, when I would ride a different horse to a secret promontory on the edge of another wood, dismount, and savor the surrounding countryside.
Memory is an immersive experience: as immersive as becoming lost in the creation of a painting. To be able to visit a place that evokes so many memories for me is a gift. I have always been a nature girl and my life’s blood is being surrounded by its sights and sounds during all seasons.
Skeletons evoke memories. So do trees. I love the way they stand out against the snow, or how some limbs catch sunlight late in the day; or how their shadows dance on the forest floor. Good bones, forever engaging.
Trees are my people.
This probably sounds ridiculous, but I became aware of my need to be an artist at the age of four. My parents had an old art history book from their college years, with reproductions in black and white. I pored over the Old Master paintings of madonnas and saints, especially fascinated with the variety of ways the artists painted halos. I could tell the difference between a halo painted by Giotto, Raphael, and Leonardo, for example. One day, when I was supposed to be napping, I sneaked the book into my bedroom and colored in all the halos with a yellow crayon. I then sneaked into my parents’ bedroom, retrieved my mother’s framed wedding portrait from my father’s dresser, removed the back from the frame, drew and colored in a halo around my mother’s head. My father never said a word and I loved him for it.
I grew up in Minnesota, the Twin Cities. I loved the out of doors, to draw and to make things. Dad built a workbench for me when I was 5 and taught me how to use tools; mother taught me how to paint. My imagination did the rest. My parents never complained about the mess.
As an adult, I have been a teacher of art to children and adults in schools, workshops, neighborhood centers, and artists’ retreats; I have created and directed dozens of public art projects. My studio practice runs parallel to my public art practice, and I am grateful for witnessing firsthand the fearless art making of children as a reminder always to take risks with my own work.
I spent many years canoe tripping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is forever my favorite spot on the planet. A forester recently told my brother-in-law that the land masses in the BWCA would become prairie in fifty years—a nod to global warming. At times, I feel desperate and powerless to do anything about climate change and the accelerated rate at which our creatures, plants and trees are facing extinction; yet believe that images rather than words are the more powerful communicators of the biggest crisis of our time. The dichotomy: we are the invasive species, yet we are creative.
This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the 2019-2020 ARTservancy artists in residence is currently being exhibited monthly at Gallery 224. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.
All images courtesy of the artists, except as noted. The featured photo at the top of Sally Duback at Spirit Lake is by Eddee Daniel. OWLT is a project partner of A Wealth of Nature.