Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Winter has finally turned, I think. We've had such a mild season--not much snow, not too cold either--that the change is muted right now. Narcissi have speared their way through the crusted mulch layers, grass is greening up, the air feels a little warmer, and daylight gets a few minutes longer with each rotation. Spring. Studio remodeling in progress, with a support wall built right through the center of it, effectively stopping me from working. So instead I'm studying, rereading Dan Greene and Schmidt and thinking about new projects. At least it's Spring.

The visit to the bonobos went very well. I was actually given two hours with them and enjoyed it more than I can say. The man who took me into the facility told me they were in the "greenhouse," the place where they can sun themselves and laze, but added that he was going to go and tell them they had a visitor. To my surprise, the whole group (troupe?) came into the area where I was. They came, looked me over, spent a few minutes more, and most went back to their sun. A couple stayed, rather dreamily leaning against the wall nearby, pretending not to notice me while staring outside.
There were several handheld color charts nearby showing symbols that the researchers and bonobos use to communicate. There is a specific symbol for commonly used words and expressions like Hello, Goodbye, etc, etc. There are several hundred printed on these charts, front and back. The bonobos have them inside their quarters, too. Same charts. I picked up one of the charts, found "Hello," and showed them where I was pointing. One looked at me and immediately pointed to the symbol for "Tickle," basically asking me to play. But of course I'm old and couldn't anyway, so the one who wanted to play (Nathan I think) immediately began roughhousing with one of the other young ones, just the way our kids do. It was a lot of fun to see.
I took a huge number of digital photos, but a lot didn't come out because I had to take them through thick glass against the exterior light (and a fill flash wouldn't have helped since the glass was pretty reflective) so it was tough to find decent ones to keep. I also made a bunch of gesture drawings of them as they sat, walked, played, and so on. Great fun.

And I presented the portrait below to the woman who is the main researcher. She was delighted, and immediately took me into their meeting room with the portrait, to show the others. They were delighted, too. Upshot is, I can go back whenever, they're happy to have me. So I've got some fun coming up, I think...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I've just made arrangements to spend an afternoon at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, a local primate research facility, getting to know a group of pygmy chimps there. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. I'm going to be introduced to a group there that have very high communication skills--they communicate readily with humans and they also understand English--so that I can eventually do some portraits of the individuals and also perhaps, some group paintings. I'm fascinated by these creatures so it's going to be a real adventure for me. I'm giving the woman who is the primary research worker this portrait of the prodigy of the group, whose name is Kanzi, which I'm told means "treasure" in one of the African languages. This portrait is oil on linen panel, 16x20.