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Paul Hodges

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The Bear Scarers

 

Near Trento, Northern Italy, in the Folk Museum of Trentini Life at San Michelle All’Adige, I saw ‘Gli Spaventa Orsi’ – Bear Scarers.

 

These were tall, wooden, heavy sculptured figures of Austro-Hungarian soldiers, Hapsburg Forresters and Gamekeepers that were once set up throughout the region to scare marauding bears, and in particular to protect the village bee hives.

 

At the time I was painting for Il Centro Di Ecologia Alpina, Monte Bondone.  Recently six bears from Slovenia had been released on the Adamello Massif across the valley.  I hoped in vain to find traces of them during his walks in the forest.

 

In contrast to the solid structures now in the museum, I recalled the frail, temporary Bird Scarers that I had seen in Indonesian rice fields; woven leaf and plant materials hanging from bamboo poles.  I decided to combine the two images.

 

The masks were suggested by my host’s private collection.  This comprised of local masks still worn at festivals through the Alps.

 

My Bear Scarers are masks and natural objects collected on my travels, or by friends.  The plant material was painted at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

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