Rough-legged Hawk in the Elm
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36 x 48, acrylic on board, 1966

This painting is an important landmark in my work. For almost two decades I had been working through a gradual evolution in my art. In my twenties I had moved from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism and Cubism. By my early thirties I was working in Abstract Expressionism.
The exploding forms in the centre of the American elm generally make me think of a Franz Kline painting. I took a three foot by four foot panel, and I did a bold gesture painting in the presence of the elm tree. My view was from the upstairs bathroom window of an old farm house so that I could be looking directly at the centre of the tree. The abstract painting was finished in a few minutes. It was strong and exciting.
I left it for two or three years, and while teaching in Nigeria I began to paint realistically again. When I returned, I looked at my elm abstract, and although it was a powerful idea, I thought I would prefer the surface of the real world, in this case, elm bark, to the mere surface of the paint. I went back to my bathroom studio in the farmhouse and worked on the texture of the trunk and delicacy of the twigs.  The rough-legged hawk migrates into our area in the winter, and is often seen roosting in the elms. I thought that it would give scale and add to the power of the tree.