“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
“I made that in 2008, I think that’s right! It is watercolor. The girls got watercolor sets in their stockings for Christmas so we all sat in the kitchen painting for days. My critters in the painting remind me of all different types of people. I use critters because animals are generally pleasant to be around. “
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
And in every season there is the possibility of resurrection.
I find my friend, Bates Webster, emerging, re-emerging, stepping out, finding in change the seeds of a new self and new art. She has been taking photographs, often many in a day, pushing the limits, without explanation or even comment. She is seeing and recording the new world where she is living. The images speak for themselves. There are two blog posts on this site about Bates Webster: An introduction to her and her art and an exhibit of her three dimensional work.
When I first knew her, Bates Fisher was a high school student. This year, she turned fifty. I must admit I sometimes still see her sitting quietly at the edge of the soccer field that was so very much her home.
Today she is a farmer, a mother who works two jobs to support her daughters, and an artist. When I call her it has to be at dawn before she heads out to feed the animals, or during the short interval before she leaves for work.
Today’s photographs are new and not new, startling and familiar, as Bates Fisher Webster once again recreates herself. Starting over is hard work. Bates Webster is a hard worker.
There are, of course, the earlier photographs. There are so many: calves at their hay in a burst of sunlight; a blue heron discovered in a spill of coffee on the barn floor; the skeleton of an abandoned barn; the bright color of water reflecting mineral deposits on the bottom of the tank. There are others, some of the land and the insects, flowers, and animals outside the tight confines of the farm, but most of the images are part of that close life that took her from house to barn and back again. They are beautiful images that speak of reticence, of watching and waiting, of something held in check.
This week I called Bates, asked her permission to write this blog and requested ten images. She sent twenty. In my email response, I wrote,
“I feel like I’ve just waked up on Christmas morning. Thank you. I will try to do these justice.”
I see light and color, shapes, focus, an incredible variety–a grasshopper settled on flowers as yellow as sunlight; a blue and purple sunset framed in barbed wire, farmland in the foreground; bright pink berries in a planter outside a Walmart in Kentucky; an elaborate cobweb, shot through a filter of colors. And that grasshopper, by the way, is just a renamed biblical locust-new and yet familiar.
As I began inserting images, I called Bates to ask a couple of questions: What are those pink berries? What’s that insect? I interrupted her as she was processing photographs. Home from her jobs, daughters fed, Bates Webster is working on her art, rolling out those images that must surely be piling up, given the number of photographs she’s been taking. Right after we hung up, I received another email. It contained this series of photographs: three leaves:
A farmer. An artist.
It isn’t uncommon for Bates to photograph in sets as she becomes fascinated with one subject–a leaf, an insect, the skeleton of a barn. It is her art to see in each object a hundred possibilities, a score of photographs, line, shade, color, light, every angle different, every shot revealing some new secret.
Bates Webster is on the move. Look at that train and you won’t doubt it.
Light, color, focus, the obsessive mind of the artist at work, the clear vision of the artist at play.
Artist, mother, farmer, fifty-year-old woman.
“For everything there is a season . . .
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted”