Masked Trogon as Inspiration: The Art of Luisa Elena Betancourt
Luisa Elena Betancourt is an artist with a MFA from Washington State University which she got through the Fulbright program in 1992. She contacted Corey to ask permission to use a Masked Trogon image from the blog for an art show and Corey agreed provided she would write a post for 10,000 Birds about how she is inspired by birds and nature. Luisa is currently preparing a show that will open on 10 February 2011 at Agora Gallery in Chelsea, New York.
The first time I saw him so close my heart stood still. I had fallen asleep on the rocking chair close to the veranda in my little cabin up in the cloud forest of Gabante, Colonia Tovar, Venezuela. When I opened my eyes there he was, three feet away on the veranda looking for moths on the cabin wall from the night before, the beautiful Masked Trogon.
My husband for forty-three years and I whent to our cabin three days a week for many years. Our special guest was the trogon. The cabin light at night was the only light around and meant garanteed food for him. Every morning the outside wall was covered with moths of all sizes and every day I could hear his purr-like sound while he choose his meal from a nearby branch.
The locals from Colonia Tovar call him Miracielo, the one who looks at the sky. He has a certain way of tilting his head sideways that seems like he is looking at the sky when in fact, with his other eye, he is looking at the butterfly he is about to eat. I call him the bird with a personallity because he doesnt hop around nervously from branch to branch like most birds do, he stays still in one branch for four or five minutes just looking and planning his next move.
When my husband passed away in 2005 his ashes were spread around the place we enjoyed most, the forest. I kept going to the cabin all by myself. I would sit and stare for hours at the dense forest surrounding the cabin. The trees forty meters high, the six different species of palm tree that boggle the mind in such cold weather, the hundreds of ferns from the tiniest ones growing on branches to the beautiful big arborescent fern, and the wild orchids including the Masdevallia tovarensis which is endemic to the region.
Surrounded by all this I decided to honor my husband and lifetime partner with an art show. My artwork had always been large format acrylic paintings with bold and saturated colors that reflected my joy for life, but at this point in time my joy for life was not there, I was in mourning. I decided to focus on my husband and our life together as the theme for the show.
The forest should also be present in the show, I thought, so I started collecting wood from young trees in the forest to construct cagelike assemblages where I placed handmade books made with handmade paper. The show was presented in art museums in Valencia and in Maracaibo. It was a large show, it had five assemblages, twenty-one handmade books with very small images transferred to the paper, a painting installation, a photography installation, and a love letters installation.
Some books had images from our forty-three years together, one book had my husband’s orchid drawings, another his fern drawings and there was a fourteen-meter long strip of photographs of the artist in the forest collecting the material. There was also an installation of a floor gigantography with the image of the ground from the forest, the wet spongy ground that surrounds the cabin with works of art depicting scenes from the cabin and its surroundings. The spectator was to feel and see what I felt and saw at the forest.
The Masked Trogon was present in some of the work at this “Huellas de Vida Show” (Traces of Life), but it wasn’t until 2008 that he started to become the theme of the show.
Early in 2008 at the opening of the Huellas de Vida show in Maracaibo, a person I met was very impressed and moved by the love of nature and love of family depicted in the artwork. That person became my second husband before the year was out. This was the time when I really started focusing on the beloved trogon which became a symbol of renewed joy of life and love. My paintings became large and vibrant again and I played with the titles naming them Tristan and Isolda.
Please come out to see my show that opens 10 February 2012 at the Agora Gallery, in Chelsea, New York. I am again taking part of the Venezuelan cloud forest to the spectator but this time to the center of New York City!