Voices of the Wilderness


In July 2017 I was afforded the opportunity to participate in the Voices of the Wilderness artist residency with the U.S. Forest Service in a remote area of southeast Alaska known as Pack Creek, Admiralty Island.  During my stay here I came to know of an old female bear named Patches.  Amongst the rangers I stayed with there was some debate as to whether she had passed away or not because she had not been seen for several days.  You see Patches was the oldest known female to frequent the fishing grounds of Pack Creek.  She was estimated to be around 30 years old, which is in the upper end of life expectancy for coastal brown bears.  She also suffered from a twisted, broken back leg, which limited her mobility and a split nose the result of some past altercation.

Two days after my arrival I saw Patches.  She was still alive.  I watched her approach from a distance like a giant hyena.  Her shoulders sloping downwards to her hindquarters due to her broken leg, creating the distinctive silhouette.  She moved with some difficulty, her age and physical condition showing, yet as I observed her interact with the other bears it became apparent she was the boss.  For the rest of that afternoon I watched Patches cause chaos in the tidal flats, intimidating young mothers into dropping their fish with her Terminator-like gait, slow and deliberate.  I thought to myself, there is a story to be told here.  She was not always like this.  Patches was once a cub fresh as the first spring rain.  This painting is dedicated to Patches and the rangers I met during my stay at Pack Creek, Admiralty Island in July 2017.

Tony PiedraComment