A selection of paintings from the past 23 years of the watershed and floodplain between Stanwood and Camano Island
These paintings document the changes over the past twenty-three years at the convergence of two rivers, the Skagit and the Stillaguamish, Port Susan Bay, the Puget Sound, and Davis Slough in an area of approximately one square mile. Some of these changes were brought about proactively and collaboratively through the actions of state and local government, non-profits, local stakeholders and farmers in consultation with tribal representatives. We are fortunate to know some of these people. Our own art includes a collaboration as husband and wife, Chaim Bezalel and Yonnah Ben Levy. Yonnah's family has deep roots, four generations, in the Pacific Northwest, including a territorial governor, and several known conservationists. She herself has been a wildlife artist for almost 50 years. Chaim was raised on the Hudson River and was involved with the Hudson River Foundation for its restoration. While serving as a planning commissioner in Stanwood, he advocated for access to the river. During this time, the commission spent several of its monthly sessions learning about the state's policies regarding water resources through the Department of Ecology. If anything positive has emerged over the last twenty years during accelerating climate change, it may be that planning for change also fosters cooperation among various parties to encourage sustainability for wildlife, fish, fowl, and humans.
“ I recently viewed a classic documentary film that I studied in college and have not seen since, 'The River' by Pere Lorentz. Produced under the New Deal, it combines exquisite cinematography, poetry, and music to convey the history, geography, and environmental impact of industry, agriculture, and war on the Mississippi River and its watershed.” - Chaim The River (1938) documentary
Davis Slough I & II (2015) mixed media with acrylics on linen (private collections)
Stanwood sits on a flood plain and has always been susceptible to flooding. In addressing this challenge, part of the solution has been intentionally flooding strategic areas, often returning them to their original condition.
“Leque Island, located west of Stanwood between Port Susan and Skagit bays, was once entirely tidal marsh. In the late 1800s, early settlers built dikes around the perimeter of the island to convert the area to farmland and homesteads. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began acquiring properties on Leque Island in 1974, and now owns the entire island … With support from the committee, WDFW decided to remove the dikes and restore the entire area to tidal marsh habitat. Removing the dikes restored 276 acres of tidal marsh habitat in the Stillaguamish River watershed where 85% of historic tidal marsh has been displaced. Estuaries are important for juvenile Chinook salmon as they transition from fresh to salt water, as well as shorebirds, waterfowl, and a host of other species in the area.” - Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
The Hand of God (2023) 38 x 76 in. mixed media on ricepaper mounted on wood
Sandpipers, Leque Island (2022) 22 x 52 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper mounted on linen on wood
Leque Island (2021) 22 x 52 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper mounted on linen on wood
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust protected this 30-acre property in 2003, primarily because of its large heronry. The preserve is owned by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife with a conservation easement held by Island County. Work is currently underway to allow further flooding of the area.
Davis Slough I (2000) 7 x 72 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper (private collection)
Davis Slough II (2011) 16 x 67 in. mixed media with acrylics on rice paper on linen on board
Davis Slough III (2013) 27 x 73 in. mixed media with acrylics on rice paper on linen on board (collection Skagit Valley Hospital, Mt. Vernon)
Davis Slough IV (2013) 30 x 40 in. mixed media on Rives mounted on birch
Mouth of the Stillaguamish River
The City of Stanwood has recently purchased three properties at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River: Ovenell Farm, six generations in Stanwood; Johnson Farm; and Hamilton Landing. The Johnson farm property sits on the bank of the river, on an estuary of the Puget Sound contained by a dike. Here is a quote from a recent article in the Everett Herald: “The levee is over a hundred years old, slapped together by farmers in the late 1800s using horses and carts. It has held up surprisingly well over the decades, but it’s showing its age, and it’s nowhere near modern day standards. Parts of the levee are eroding, becoming skinnier, barely walkable in some spots, making the chances of a failure more likely. Other parts aren’t tall enough, hardly higher than the highest tides of the year. When Puget Sound fills to the brim, the water laps the top of that dirt mound. And occasionally, the ocean spills over.”
Stillaguamish River from the Johnson Farm (2005) 21 x 72 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper mounted on panel (collection Skagit Valley Hospital, Smokey Point)
Looking West from the Mark Clark Bridge (2004) mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper (private collection)
Snow Geese, Stillaguamish Watershed (2007) 20 x 72 in. water based oils and cold wax on paper mounted on hardboard (collection Arlington Hospital)
Johnson Farm in Winter (2006) 13 x 48 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper mounted on panel (private collection)
Stillaguamish River, Winter (2022) 23 ½ x 51 ½ in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper mounted on panel
Along the Stillaguamish (2023) 23 x 51 in. mixed media with acrylics on ricepaper
These paintings are from a continuing series titled “American Scrolls.” Here is a link to a video of the project.