Child with Armadillo and Golden-cheeked Warbler
36×30 inches, oil on aluminum panel
©2022 Fatima Ronquillo, Private Collection
by Elizabeth Bishop
for Robert Lowell
This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,
rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.
Once up against the sky it’s hard
to tell them from the stars—
planets, that is—the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,
or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it’s still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,
receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.
Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair
of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.
The ancient owls’ nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,
and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft!—a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.
Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!
41×32 inches, oil on aluminum panel
©2022 Fatima Ronquillo
While working on the theme of the borderlands, which for me are the personal “in-between” moments, I also wanted to explore the changing of light, from day into night, from the blue hour to the golden hour or the gloaming. I also thought of the passage of time, how endangered species are here and then may not be in future, which is the case for the golden-cheeked warbler which is endemic to Central Texas and also for the Central American squirrel monkey which has been a recurring figure in many of my paintings over the years. The Palawan pheasant peacock in “The Blue Hour” is another such endangered species and is a reference to my Philippine roots.
Borderlands also represents transitions in time, such as the elusive light between night and morning or the cycle of the seasons – in life and in nature. Floral with Red Squirrel symbolizes a hopeful shift from winter to spring, with an Elizabethan figure dressed in white emerging from a dark landscape. “It’s so much of what I’ve been feeling lately,” says Ronquillo. “Emerging from a cold dark winter to spring – a new beginning.”
Girl and Golden-cheeked Warbler at the Gloaming
12×12 inches, oil on aluminum panel
©2022 Fatima Ronquillo