Grizzly bears have a way of stirring up our emotions. Whether it’s fear, gratitude, joy or awe–or some combination of them–experiences with the Great Bear rarely fail to elicit strong feelings from people. For one grizzly enthusiast, those feelings led to creative expression, and we’re honored to share her work here on the Vital Ground blog. Georgia Baker is a wildlife and wildland painter and a friend of Vital Ground who was inspired by our founders, Doug and Lynne Seus and Bart the Bear. Her recent painting, The Bond, was born from that inspiration. It will be auctioned as a fundraiser for The Compassion Project, an initiative led by Montana State University to spread compassion through art and education. Bidding on the painting is currently open online and will close at the downtown art walk in Bozeman, Mont., on Friday, June 14.
Here’s how Georgia tells the story behind The Bond:
I decided to paint The Bond to represent my beliefs about compassion; it depicts Doug Seus walking in peaceful friendship with a grizzly named Bart II. Doug and Lynne Seus are the founders of a Montana conservation organization called Vital Ground, an organization that was inspired by their deep bond with a very special grizzly bear called Bart I, who has since passed away. Doug, Lynne, Bart I and Bart II inspired me to paint The Bond because their lives and actions exemplify love and understanding that transcends all differences. I wanted to embody those qualities in my painting as a way of showing how essential love and understanding are to a life full of compassion.
Due to their great power, size and capabilities, grizzly bears have been feared and demonized in our culture, fostering unnecessary violence toward these animals. Advocating for grizzly bears and shedding light on their peaceful characteristics is a deep passion of mine. I hope that this painting inspires us to be open with our hearts and to foster love and understanding rather than fear. I believe that this act of compassion can lead us to respect grizzly bears, implement strategies for peaceful coexistence, and recognize the importance of this keystone species in numerous ecosystems.
Georgia’s painting became especially meaningful due to its role in her healing process after a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Her artist statement explains that process while introducing the viewer to some of the broader inspirations for her work:
Georgia Baker, a wildlife and wildland painter, has always fostered a deep appreciation for nature. Georgia is a firm believer that wildlife and wildland art is more important than ever in today’s world, and can help to inspire acts of environmental conservation and compassion. Recently cited as the current greatest threat to wildlife by organizations such as The National Wildlife Federation and the World Wide Fund for Nature, habitat loss is of particular concern to Georgia. Habitat loss can be devastating for species that are already endangered, but it is a serious threat for countless others as well. Georgia’s paintings attempt to give a voice to wildlife and their habitat, and to give them a constant presence in the daily lives of her audience.
Georgia recently underwent a medical crisis when she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). She has spent months in recovery and physical therapy in order to regain her motor control, which was lost quickly and extensively when this life-threatening syndrome set in. Throughout this journey, Georgia learned that making art has an incredible power to heal, one that defies all limitations. Georgia’s recent experiences have strengthened her resolve to create wildlife art that will truly make a positive difference in the battle against habitat fragmentation and loss. It is Georgia’s mission for her paintings to inspire the love of nature; her greatest hope is that her audience will be inspired to support conservation initiatives and to act now to assure the survival of our diminishing wildlife and wildlands for future generations.
All of us at Vital Ground are deeply grateful for the opportunity to share Georgia’s work and story, and inspired by her passion for conservation. You can view more of Georgia’s work on Facebook.