I’d recently come across a comic by XKCD about the Bee Orchid, you can read it here.*
In the comic, one frame is dramatically different from XKCD’s standard stick figures. It is a painting of a solitary Bee Orchid, along with the words: “…the only memory of the bee is a painting by a dying flower.” At the end of the comic the artist figure tells the lone flower that he will remember the bee & remember the flower.
To me, the key part of this comic is the idea that a painting is a memory of connections, relationships & loves. The painter takes the perspective of their audience & blends it with the subject, then creates an image with strokes, thick or thin and colors bold or gentle. Generations later, when both are long since returned to dust, someone may look at the canvas and still see lives intertwined. They can walk away and carry that long ago memory with them. Carry away a little piece of those long ago lives…
The orchid painted a bee so beautiful it tempted mates from far and wide. She painted it for herself & for the bee… Now humans are essentially the sole admirers of her work & soon we will be the only ones to remember the flower and her relationship with those lovelorn pollinators.
Perhaps it’s just the sentimental painter in me, but this is what I see as the greatest value of art. Presenting the gift of memory to a future that could so easily forget we ever existed.
* numerous bloggers have focused on the fact that the bee is not completely extinct, however they no longer populate the same part of the world as their lovely orchid. Both organisms are on the brink with little hope of salvation.