The Art Tree Exhibition – my series is called “A Little Inspiration for a Big Idea”…
The little inspiration
The Theory of Evolution is a HUGE idea. But like all ideas, it starts with one thing: a little inspiration. Something happens to you: a feeling, a thought, divine inspiration? Over time this develops, culminating in an idea which if it’s a good one, can change the world forever.
Darwin took over twenty years to transform his thoughts into the massive idea unleashed into the world in The Origin of Species. The year 2009 is The Year of Darwin, the 150-year anniversary of his theory’s publication. This series explores the origins of Darwin’s idea to explore his greatest inspiration: The Galapagos Islands.
1JB – “My little friend” on Isabela.
I flew to this island in the front seat of a tiny seaplane and roamed the island for what felt like days but was only a few hours. Alone with nature. This island is heaven. Marine Iguanas were everywhere – but it was this little Lava Lizard, so colourful and curious, that won my heart.
2JB – “Anything is possible” on Isla Bartolome.
I was standing with the tour group at the top of a volcano when Rachel pointed and mouthed “LOOK B E H I N D YOU”. I turned, and there it was, sitting on the rail. I stood and stared. This Galapagos Eagle was BEAUTIFUL. I took one photo, ten, and as it flew away I caught this shot. Freedom.
3JB – “Family life” on San Cristobal.
We spent three days and nights hanging out with the locals – Ecuadorian boys, English teachers, and Galapagos Sea Lions. At the local beach they welcome you to join their family of countless females and babies and one token attention-seeking male boss. Just watching their family relationships you realize we really are not so different after all. 3000 people live on this San Cristobal. You can too if you marry a local… and people do!
4JB – “Cancerian decor” on Plazas Sur.
There nothing little about these Sally Lightfoot Crabs – at least relative to their body… just look at their giant claws and bulging eyes!!! These bright coloured creatures, also known as ‘Red Rock Crabs’ are scattered all over the seaside rocks like Christmas lights on a tree. Sometimes animated and full of life, and seemingly playing dead – much like the Cancers I know (I’m one of them.)
5JB – “Kiss and cuddles” on Santa Fe.
I used to think if I had to be a different animal I would be a dog, or maybe a bird. But now I know what I want to come back as in my next life. These Galapagos Sea Lions are the most affectionate creatures on this planet. Sure the have their family domestics, but they always make up with kisses and cuddles.
6JB – “Old souls” on Santa Cruz.
The Galapagos Giant Tortoise has the aura of a very old very wise man. These beautiful ancient reptiles move very slowly, eat slowly, sleep 16 hours a day, and live like this for more than 100 years (the oldest recorded age is 152 years.) These majestic creatures have a ‘mutual symbiotic relationship’ with the finch –stretching out their necks for the bird to eat off ticks – an easy meal for the bird and no more parasites for them.
8JB – “Happy as Larry” on Santa Fe.
Feeling like Alice in Wonderland I wandered down a little path to have lunch with Larry the Land Iguana. He was hungry. Just one, I said to myself, unable to resist. I “accidentally” plucked a flower and put it on the step in front of Larry. As if in slow motion first his eyes motioned to the yellow petals. His head followed, then one foot and then the next. He scooped down, his tongue popped out and LICK… the flower was gone. Then he lifted his head and smiled at me. I got this shot, and hurried along in a vain attempt to catch up to my group.
7JB – “Curiosity killed the cat” on Santa Fe.
I got in trouble for taking this photo. I was crouched in the bushes observing this little Darwin Finch hopping here and there, engaging with me curiously. Finally I stood only to find my friends and tour group were nowhere to be seen. Still able to see our boat I didn’t panic, instead wandered up a pathway. The search party found me… eventually.
9JB – “Contemplating life” on San Cristobal.
I relate to this baby Galapagos Sea Lion. He is tired. Who isn’t? Life can be tough. Learning to walk. Learning to think. Learning to eat. Leraning to do this, do that, but why? All this “stuff” that requires energy and effort. Sometimes we all have follow this baby’s example: pause, rest our chins on a rock and think, “what is this life really all about?”
So… Why Galapagos?
Galapagos formed 5million years ago by underwater volcanoes that rose to the surface creating 20 or so rocky islands and over 40 tiny islets. These islands are in Ecuador, located 1000km from the mainland (about a 1.5 hour flight). There are over 300 plant and animal species that are unique to the islands, and evidence of evolution can be seen everywhere with each island inhabited by plant and animal life different from the rest. Plants and animals began to evolve there 2-million years ago after seeds, insects and plant spores were carried over in the wind and with birds, while larger animals such as the iguanas are suspected to have arrived on floating vegetation. Because they have sent this time with no predators around them, the animals have no fear toward humans and they go about their day as if you were one of them.
Our connection to the animals
As I took these photographs, and at times when I sat on a beach simply observing their family life, eating habits and the ways they communicate with each other, I felt a sense of unity with them. I could understand why these animals would challenge any belief in human superiority above other forms of life. I found myself contemplating my relationship to the other creatures of this planet: are they just there for the benefit of humans – to admire and eat? Or is there something more?
It was the variety of finches collected from the various islands that demonstrated natural selection in action. Darwin discovered that the bird’s beaks would evolve to be longer or shorter, weaker or stronger, thinner or thicker, depending on the food sources available on the island for example large hard seeds led to nature preferring birds with a long strong beak while small soft seeds gave preference to small more flexible beaks. Darwin analysed his specimens and noticed differences between different islands, asking himself: did God create these in 6 days, or had something else occurred?
In the last 150 years, people in western societies have faced a confronting dilemma: do I believe in creation or do I believe in evolution? It’s often presented as if we have to make a choice: religion or science. Either: an all-powerful “God” created us, or we evolved from an empty void of nothing and there is no God.
This polarized debate distorts the real issue. If we were “created in God’s image” but also evolved from animals, then might we simply have to broaden our idea of what “God” actually looks like? Could science and religion be talking about the same energy behind life, but in different languages? Could the two in essence believe in the same thing, but be talking about it in different ways – some choosing to personify the energy, and others preferring to scientify it? Might “God” be a personification of the quantum energies that create themselves out of nothing? If this is so, then what part do we now have to play in the ongoing evolution of our species, our planet and our universe?
Check out the other twenty artists collaborating for this exhibition at: www.thearttree.com.au