Jim Kelso

Ruling Passion

This piece, a contemplation sculpture for the hand, perhaps more than any other of my works, was inspired by an actual event. It was, I think, 2013, and I was walking in the field across from our house about 10PM, the night before the June solstice full moon, so the moon was quite full. On this kind of liquid night, at that time of year, one can feel quite enveloped by nature. I was walking on a trail that borders the tree line and I happened to look up just as a Luna Moth (oomizuao in Japan) was flying out from the forest. The moon was so bright and I was not using my flashlight, but instinctively I turned it on and illuminated the moth with it. The poor moth was stunned by the bright light and spiraled to the ground through the tall grass. I felt she would recover and have a better chance of regaining flight from the top of the grass so I let her sit on my hand for a few moments before placing her on the top of the grass seed-heads. She rested a few moments and then flew off on her journey through the moon-filled night. The mystery and beauty of this encounter remains within me as a touchstone of nature immersion.

I thought for many years how to celebrate this experience in my work, with the aim of portraying the moth flying off into the unknown. Recently I found a painting showing a moth in flight in ¾ view, and it occurred to me the pose would be lovely for a shibuichi moth, using a dark wood background to represent the night. I refined the pose and details, especially the undulating wing trailers. In researching the Luna Moth I discovered that they only live as adult moths for 5 to 7 days. Also they have no mouthparts for eating, and they can smell a mate 7 miles away, through their antennae. I used the wood to represent her flight through the night air. I also sought to represent the mating fragrance with subtle lines and sparkling texture on the wood surface.

My encounter with the moth in the full moon nighttime remains as a vivid and singular peak experience, and I longed to make an homage to it. My wish was to capture the creature’s beauty, vitality and mystery; elements of the unchangeable, beyond the trials of earthly life. I hope the viewer, while holding and moving the piece, can feel some envelopment of the senses and connection with the mid-summer night air, the moonlight and one of nature’s astounding creatures, striving for life.

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