Goat Whispering
paper collage, india ink, gouache, acrylic on panel and vintage frame
24” x 20”

Artist’s note: “Goatsuckers” is an interesting name for the group of birds which include nighthawks, nightjars, whip-poor-wills, and poor-wills. The name comes from some of the folklore surrounding these sometimes mysterious nocturnal birds. David Sibley writes, “They all have tiny beaks that open to reveal an impressively large mouth used to catch flying insects, and they are active mainly at night. Their nocturnal habits made them mysterious, and their bizarre appearance required an explanation, and as early as the 300s BC Aristotle wrote about the trouble these birds could cause with goats.” I think birds and other animals are the real-life ‘fairies’, as they seem much more likely to be the magical elements of the environment around us. Nocturnal creatures seem even that much more mysterious, thus it’s easier to attribute shenanigans to that unknown part of their repertoire. 

“This bird is often referred to as a nighthawk, but it is no hawk at all. It is a cousin to the whip-poor-will. It is a bird with a variegated plumage of white, black, and buff, reflecting that intersection of night and day we call dusk. 
     Dusk is the time at which the swisher is most active. It is a time long associated with fairies, elves, and the awakening of spirits. The swisher is a bird of the "Tween Time," and is often seen as a transport vehicle for those of the Faerie Realm. 
     The swisher is part of a group of birds that used to be called goatsuckers because of an age old belief that they sucked the milk of goats. This probably originated with the folk ideas of mischievous elves and fairies who helped themselves to milk from goats and cows on farms near their homes. 
     Many misbehaviors and misfortunes were attributed to elves and fairies when there was no rational explanation. The souring of milk, the disappearance of objects, and even the stealing of milk was attributed to them. Since nighthawks and other "goatsuckers" of European origin were active at dusk and night (the time of elf and fairy activity), they were considered the vehicles of those of the Faerie Realm.” 
—Nighthawk Medicine. http://spiritlodge.yuku.com/topic/986#.V4aGWZMrLR0

Migration Stories and Other Curious Lore 2016

Lungfish in Aestivation
paper collage, acrylic, acrylic medium, gold leaf on panel 
24” x 24”

Artist’s note: The term aestivate means “to pass the summer” by spending a prolonged hot or especially dry period in a dormant state. Certain insects, fish, and amphibians are known to do this. The African Lungfish is one of those animals, an ancient creature said to have survived virtually unchanged for over 400 million years. 

“The African lungfish, Protopterus aethiopicus, is an obligatory air breather which inhabits the shallow waters of lakes and rivers in central Africa (Greenwood, 1966). During the torrid season, as ambient waters evaporate, the lungfish escapes desiccation by burrowing into the mud, forming a chamber in which it remains for months until the waters return. As the mud of the burrow hardens, the fish becomes covered in its entirety with a presumably waterproof cocoon that is open only at the mouth for breathing (Smith, 1930; Johnels & Svensson, 1954). While encased in this subterranean nest, the lungfish undergoes a series of physiological adjustments in order to survive starvation and partial dehydration. During its encasement in the burrow, lungfish is said to be in a state of aestivation.”

—AESTIVATION OF THE AFRICAN LUNGFISH PROTOPTERUS AETHIOPICUS: CARDIOVASCULAR AND RESPIRATORY FUNCTIONS BY R. G. DELANEY, S. LAHIRI AND A. P. FISHMAN Cardiovascular-Pulmonary Division, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, U.S.A

Miraculous Transmutation
botanical print collage, paper, acrylic, acrylic medium on panel
24” x 24”

Artist’s note: In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle wrote a book called History of Animals, in which he applied philosophical thinking and reason to the happenings he observed in the natural world. Having no direct observation with the concept of migration, instead he theorized that some birds physically changed at certain times of the year. For instance, in the springtime, Robins morphed into Redstarts and Blackcaps changed into Warblers. As winter approached they would “change back” again. Aristotle was convinced that each bird pairing was actually the same species.  

"Aristotle declared that summer Redstarts annually transform themselves into Robins in winter. He also thought summertime Garden Warblers change into Blackcaps. These miraculous transmutations were treated as a matter of fact for hundreds of years, and not just on the authority of Aristotle. Observation seemed to coincide with the explanation in this case: Redstarts migrate to sub-Saharan Africa at a time when Robins, who breed farther north, come to winter in Greece. Since the species were never completely present at the same time, the explanation seemed plausible.”

—Engines of Our Ingenuity. No. 2228:ANCIENT EXPLANATIONS OF BIRD MIGRATION. John Leinhard presents guest Richard Armstrong.  http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2228.htm


EASTHAMPTON, MA., JULY 13- Lynn Sisler exhibits “Migration Stories and Other Curious Lore,” a dynamic collection of mixed media, Raku fired ceramics and acrylic works at the ECA+ gallery from Aug 3 to Aug 26. The opening reception coincides with the August Art Walk “Know Thy History: Easthampton Lore” on Aug 13 from 5-8PM. This exhibit is free and open to the public.

Sisler’s “Migration Stories” is a visceral and tactile exploration of the relationship between humans and their kinship to nature. Her collection of specimen birds, fired with Raku and other glazing techniques giving her birds organic yet vibrant tones, highlights the importance of wildlife conservation efforts. In her paintings, Sisler uses a wide color palette and layering method which blurs the space between reality and fantasy. Each of her pieces encapsulates its own narrative through her artistic process and exploration of a diverse set of materials. 

Sisler researched ancient narratives about animals, birds in particular, to guide her work. She was especially intrigued by historical theories about bird migration. Her deep relationship with nature is fostered by her interest in the beauty and mystery of the natural world. Sisler’s understanding of the modern departure between humans and nature informs her work and spurs her investigation of the relationship between past and present.

 Lynn Sisler was born in Rockford, Illinois and spent more than 20 years in Decatur, Georgia. She received her BFA in painting and a minor in Art History from Northern Illinois University in 1991. Several of her works have been chosen for group shows and she received a special merit award for one of her pieces in 2013. Now, Sisler lives and creates her art in the Massachusetts Pioneer Valley. Sisler’s exhibit at ECA+, “Migration Stories and Other Curious Lore” will be her first solo show. 

The ECA+ Gallery is located in Easthampton’s Old Town Hall at 43 Main Street, Easthampton, MA. The gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday from 12PM until 6PM during the summer. For more information, please see EasthamptonCityArts.com. or visit the artist’s website at www.lynnsisler.com.

Swallows in a Winter Loch
paper collage, acrylic, acrylic medium, etching on panel
24” x 26”

Artist’s note: With ice and snow covering the frozen lake, the swallows cluster together tightly for their annual hibernation under the water until spring melts the ice and the birds can return to their summer homes. 

“We find this idea still viable in a sixteenth-century History and Nature of the Northern Peoples by Swedish Archbishop Olaus Magnus. A woodblock print from 1555 shows fishermen pulling up a net-load of hibernating swallows from a lake. The passage on swallows bristles with elaborate pseudo-information. The swallows congregate in vast numbers in fall, and sink down into the mud and water, packed like sardines. Inexperienced fishermen, Olaus said, will try to warm up these swallows and revive them, but they soon die. Experienced fishermen just leave them undisturbed.”
— Engines of Our Ingenuity. No. 2228:ANCIENT EXPLANATIONS OF BIRD MIGRATION. John Lienhard presents guest Richard Armstrong.  http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2228.htm






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