Art on the Land: Jessica Billey and the Fender’s Blue Butterfly

Drawing inspiration from a small but well-known resident of Greenbelt Land Trust’s Lupine Meadows

By Jessica Billey
Print Maker and Commissioned Artist for Art on the Land

“Fender’s Blue and Two Horses” is a woodcut print inspired by Lupine Meadows, a beautiful and serene upland and wetland habitat that is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals and endangered species. For this print, I focused on the upland meadow area with its rich and beautiful tapestry of plants,  animals, and insects—specifically the Fender’s Blue Butterfly.

This particular meadow seems to be a nearly invisible island sitting above the surrounding roads and houses. When I visited the land, I was particularly struck by its incredible vantage point and how the world seems to go right past without notice. This might be the very thing that has preserved this particular spot in such a marvelous way. The meadow sits high above the surrounding trees with an incredible view of the sky and coastal mountains. Two horses were residents of this location for many years, and even though they are long gone, the sound of horses could be heard whinnying from the surrounding farms each time I visited. It’s as if the horses are still watching over this meadow.

The meadow is nearly asleep for winter now. The pocket gophers are gathering rose hips, the strawberries are still holding on to green leaves, the blue butterflies are safely tucked into the lupine, and the smallest shoots of flowers and grasses are still arranging themselves for winter. I looked up photos and read as much as I could about Lupine Meadows. I wanted to gather a bigger view and greater understanding of this land and how it travels through the seasons and how it has lived through time.

The woodcut image started as a collection of field sketches and drawings. I took notes while visiting the land, writing down the sights and sounds that surround this meadow hill.

The Fender’s Blue Butterfly is a very small creature, yet it is the most well-known resident of Lupine Meadows. I like how this place is essentially a protected island and decided to echo this idea with an island-like crest of flowers rising above the surrounding land of fields and farms.

I wanted to celebrate the iconic resilience of the Fender’s Blue and chose to make it the highlight of this woodcut print. I often use symbols from my Ukrainian heritage in my artwork and this is reflected in the small dotted circle near the top, representing the sun and stars and the marvelous expanse of sky that watches over this meadow.

I pulled these elements together into an image and transferred it to the woodblock in reverse. This ensures that the final image comes out the right way when it’s printed. I used an 8 x 10″ woodblock of fine-grained Shina plywood from Hokkaido, Japan, and carved the image using a variety of very small knives. The areas of white are carved out and the remaining image is printed in black. The ink I chose for this print is Tom Huck’s Outlaw Black made in Portland by Gamblin. The paper is handmade Twinrocker printmaking paper from Brookston, Indiana. This paper is very special and has been in my paper archive for nearly 30 years. It seemed just the right thing for this special art piece celebrating this preserved land.

I have a deep love and respect for nature. As a child, I grew up in the country and spent endless hours exploring woods and fields, climbing trees, catching frogs, and enjoying the outdoors throughout the seasons. My family still celebrates every New Year’s Day at a conservation club in Indiana. This ongoing heritage has instilled in me a magical respect and reverence for nature and all her creatures. As an artist, I am particularly drawn to the small details and beautiful connections that weave together within a place.

It has been exciting to learn more about Lupine Meadows and create this woodcut print for Art on the Land. I am especially honored to have this opportunity to use my art in support of the Chúush Fund and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. 

I would like to thank Matt Benotsch and Greenbelt Landtrust, the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, Heather and Paul Halpern at Whiteaker Printmakers in Eugene, and Kathy and Howie Clark and Twinrocker Paper in Indiana, and Creative Framing in Corvallis.

 Fender’s Blue and Two Horses by Jessica Billey

About Jessica Billey

Jessica Billey is an Oregon artist working primarily in woodcut printmaking and drawing. Her current  print work features intricately carved images of macro botanicals, bees, and other natural elements  affected by climate change. Her newest print work combines ancestral symbols and science to create an  abstract musical score that speaks to the effects of fire on wild bee populations. Her artwork is rooted in  themes of connections, place, and the identity of home and how these elements evolve and interact  through time.  

Jessica has been a working artist since the late 80’s and studied fine arts with an emphasis on painting  and printmaking at the University of Evansville and Purdue University. Previous exhibits have included  work and performances at IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (Santa Fe, NM), SITE Santa Fe  (NM), Brooklyn Fire Proof Gallery (NY), Corrine Woodman Gallery (Corvallis, OR), and Postcommodity’s  Spirit Abuse Gallery (Albuquerque, NM).

About Art on the Land

Raffle tickets are on sale December 2-12, 2021

Art on the Land is part of a collaborative project with Greenbelt Land TrustWallowa Land TrustWetlands Conservancy, and Wild Rivers Land Trust. Throughout October and November, artists visited a property in their area that is currently protected and preserved by a local land trust, drawing inspiration from the landscape to create a unique, commissioned piece of art. Learn more.

Buy your raffle tickets for a chance to win a one-of-a-kind work of art—like Jessica’s piece—created by local Oregon artists and inspired by land currently protected by Oregon land trusts. Tickets are $20 each, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Chúush Fund to support the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as they work to restore their access and infrastructure for clean water.

Raffle winners will be selected December 15 and notified by December 17.

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Kelsey Kuhnhausen

Kelsey Kuhnhausen

Kelsey is COLT's Communications Manager.

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