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Steven Strauss's Geese Paintings

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Cornwall has a Canada geese problem. It seems there are too many geese in the town park, and they are creating what some regard as unsanitary conditions. The local government and concerned citizens proposed methods to control the avian invaders. Controversy ensued, petitions were started, letters were written, and the town even formed a geese management committee. Then one day the geese were gone, presumably rounded up and killed.

The incident led Steven Strauss to consider the geese as subjects for his paintings. Why the aggressive action against the birds? Why are they seen as pests, nuisances, invaders, and polluters, when they are a natural phenomenon? Perhaps, he thought, it is an immigration problem, and, like the crisis playing out across the human world, it is one we have little or no control of. Canada geese mate for life, and family bonds are strong. A migrating flock can cover 1,500 miles in one day, and it often returns to the same location year after year.

Strauss's paintings emphasize each bird's distinctive characteristics through detailed close-ups, like film stills. Individual portraits emerge from a plain gray background. At the same time, the shape of the goose's neck and its elegant black-and-white coloring make for a pleasing exploration of form and composition. Some paintings are quirky and surreal, like the image above, with multiple necks twisted together. The simplicity of Strauss's paintings belies the complexity of the subject, as well as the implications, both local and global, of attempts to control the movement of living things.

Back in Cornwall, Strauss has no shortage of subject matter. Each year, flocks of migrating geese return to the park, continuing nature's inevitable cycle. Portfolio: Stevenmstrauss.com.

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