When the first settlers arrived in Georgia they were in awe of the never-ending majestic longleaf pine forests. I try to imagine the immensity of it all, trees here in this area of the South, trees that reached down to Florida, trees that reached from Georgia to Alabama and all the way to Texas, trees that reached from Georgia to North Carolina and up to Maryland, trees that reached and covered this land with trunks so huge they seemed unreal, a shadow of longleaf covering the South. This is the land our settlers saw when they came to Irwin County, long before we had Tift County. If I had the power to turn back time, I would go to those forests in the early 1800s and stand with my ancestors under those great trees, light shimmering down on my head and face. I would love to see it as it was.
I imagine our ancestors never dreamed they would lose the longleaf. How could they lose something that was as common here as sand is on a beach? Without the longleaf, I wonder how the settlers would have survived. Longleaf made their homes, their floors. It made their barns and their churches. Longleaf gave turpentine. Longleaf was cut and sold and shipped across the Atlantic. It was prized, and it was nearly wiped out. Many called those forests the Piney Woods.
In The Southern Series, I feature a painting of a prescribed night burn of a longleaf forest. Prescribed burns are critical to the survival of the Piney Woods. They provide nutrients to young, growing trees, and promote the growth of diverse plants.
We need longleaf forests. We need the plants that grow in their forest of light. We need the animals and birds. We need the tortoise gopher and its burrows. We need our roots. We need this place.
I used cadmium yellow, cadmium red, Chinese red vermillion and other colors that I love while creating this painting. The scene is taken from a memory of helping to burn a plot of longleaf during my early twenties. The painting focuses on the beauty of the Piney Woods, the mystique of the red and golden flames licking the forest, preparing it for new growth.
Prescribed Night Burn of Longleaf Pines, oil on canvas, will be exhibited at Brenda Sutton Rose: The Southern Series at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in Tifton, Georgia. It will be an exhibition that weaves writings with paintings. It will thread our southern way of life with stories: nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The opening reception will begin at 5:30 PM on Saturday, September 9, 2023. At 6PM, the artist talk and gallery tours will begin. Approximately 30 oil paintings and stories will be exhibited. All are invited to the opening reception. The exhibition will run from September 9 - December 15.