I was born as Renay Piper in 1973 in White Rock, Canada, a beautiful and sleepy little beach town on Semiahmoo (meaning: half moon) Bay, with a beach that went out for nearly a mile at low tide, covered in fine grey sand with no shells or seaweed, save for some mussels and stones at the shoreline. It was perfect for sandcastle competitions and wading far out into the water without it getting too deep. Eventually there were enough questions raised, environmental restrictions put into place, and the city was no longer able to release raw sewage and industrial waste into the bay where the local Indian tribe also fished and where anyone could crab off the end of the pier. Over the years, the bay slowly started to regenerate and now there are starfish at the end of the pier, lots of seaweeds and shells to navigate, and more fish. Every once in awhile a whale beaches itself in the shallow waters however, and as people gather and the press arrives, we are reminded of how little we understand, how there is much more to this bay and the ocean beyond just what we want from it, and how out of sync we may be from our own nature. Weaving through our personal bias, we try to achieve honest conclusions, action plans...and sometimes it’s too heavy. Sometimes it’s inconvenient.
We take care of what we love.
Unseen from this particular bay, there are oil tankers coming and going, navigating the intricate inlets and islands along the West Coast, through orca pods and dolphin pods and seals and sea birds. For those who choose to ponder this delicate dance, there is tension within this beauty surrounding us, and we hold our breaths a little bit in the hopes that nothing “big” goes wrong.
I now live about 45 minutes away from White Rock, in another country, still on the coast. The San Juan Islands are all around, Puget Sound just to the south. Massive vacant lots and rusted buildings - the ghosts of old industry - take up real estate along Bellingham Bay, with a history of reckless pollution in its "heyday" that has permanently damaged the surrounding waters and land. Trains go along the waterfront, carrying coal and oil and stopping at Cherry Point oil refinery nearby and onward to Vancouver BC. We love to walk along the water at Boulevard Park, but can't help noticing yellow signs closing parts of the beach (parts!) that are apparently too contaminated from previous industry and indicating that there are plans for cleanup and restoration. How did we get here?
We take care of what we truly love.
My focus is often on water; it is therapeutic for me to be near it, on it, in it. For a couple of years my husband and I lived inland, and though it had its own wonderful aspects, to be back on the coast feels right for us. Whether it’s a beach on Maui with big waves rolling in and snorkeling with turtles, or a lean-into-the-wind walk along the Olympic Peninsula coast with tiny sandpipers and brave seagulls in a winter storm, I am thrilled to be near the clearing, healing energy of the ocean and its patterns. The coastlines are special for us humans, places where we can still stand on our feet but experience the water and the ion charged air, become aware of the power of the unknown but feel safe and recalibrate in its mystery and awesomeness. Celebrating, appreciating, experiencing, respecting and protecting our shorelines not only seems important more than ever now to the health of ourselves, but obviously to the health of the planet which we are intricately part of and depend on. For me, to paint the earths shorelines, waves, sea creatures, to express the air around it that moves it and me, is a meditative experience, and something that I hope touches people in a way that sparks a new appreciation or the joy of camaraderie in our love for nature and its gifts.
Another concept I’ve been exploring is nourishment and the appreciation I have for the sustainable farming movement that is changing the modern food system with each new day. We are what we believe, what we speak and do, and what we eat. The more industry and politics get into food, the more I want to honor the special food I’m lucky enough to be able to eat - whole, healthy, fresh, and grown ethically. It’s been a journey and will continue to be. I find painting things that relate to nourishment comforting, and in some way like I’ve given it a little bit longer to exist...especially those little bees.
Though I’ve not painted nearly the amount I’d have liked to over the years, to paint even for a moment, and to be able to focus on these elemental things is something I’m very grateful to be able to do.
Thank you for visiting!