A painting of Yellowwood State Forest by artist Charlene Marsh work hangs in the office of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Marsh’s award-winning work is part of the long tradition of Hoosier painters capturing the vibrant natural beauty of the one and only Brown County. Like T.C. Steele and William Forsyth before her, Marsh pays close attention to the seasons of the forest and captures them on canvas in an impressionistic style, out in the open air. Here’s her powerful letter to Governor Eric Holcomb:
Dear Gov. Holcomb,
I am writing today to implore you to take a hard look at the logging practices in our state forests and end the wholesale cutting of our trees, especially in the back country areas.
As an artist and a life long Republican (who voted for you!), my property borders Yellowwood State Forest in Brown County so I have an intimate relationship with the forest and vested interest in what happens to our forest.
I met your lovely wife, Janet, at a reception this past spring for the artists exhibiting in the State House and discovered we are both Muncie Burris grads, both majored in Fine Arts in college, and are both horsewomen. What a pleasure meeting another Republican, Burris alumna, horsewoman, and artist all rolled in one!
I hike every day, rain or shine or snow or ice, in the forest and have built a career painting the forest “en plein air” in all four seasons.? I travel all over the USA to exhibit and sell these paintings, serving as an ambassador for our state and for our forests.
I still remember when I was at a show in Minneapolis, the Uptown Art Fair, when a gentleman stopped in front of my booth studying the paintings. He commented, “These are from Brown County, aren’t they?” I was amazed and asked: “You could tell just from the paintings?” He said, “Yes, the area is very distinctive.”
In that moment I realized what a unique, special resource we have in Indiana with our deciduous, broad leaf forest, spectacular autumn (and spring, summer, winter) colors, deep, undisturbed forest canopy, rolling hills, and meandering creeks. As a state, we need to recognize that tracts of undisturbed, old growth, forest is a very rare commodity that must be protected and preserved, not chopped, cut, destroyed, and sold to the lowest bidder.
One of the most exciting memories I have in the forest was one day, March 17, 2015, when I was hiking along the creek behind my property, I spotted a cougar moving up a hill with his rounded ears, muscular body, and long, rope-like tail. I have lived out here since 1987 and have seen coyotes, deer, raccoons, a beaver (that was pretty amazing seeing him in this intermittent creek), opossums, rattlesnakes, copperheads (bit by one on Friday the 13th in 2007!) but spotting that cougar was a memorable highlight.
Beyond dollars and cents and business concerns of the management of the forest, we must take into account the spiritual benefits of nature and the ability for people to get out into nature to recharge, reset, regroup, reground, and reconnect with our souls and with God. We need our forests to provide that resource for the people of Indiana. Cutting the forest is like cutting the soul out of the heart of the people.
I strongly urge you to take steps to stop the wanton cutting of our forests. Please take a stand to recognize not only the economic benefits, but the beauty and spiritual benefits inherent in an undisturbed, standing forest. We have in Indiana an incredible resource that can be lost so quickly and so thoughtlessly. And once gone, it is gone for the next several generations. We must think in terms of a hundred years, not ten or, worse, one.
Thank you so much for your consideration for preserving one of our greatest natural resources, our closed canopy forest.
cc: State Senator Eric Koch; Indiana Forest Alliance
See more of Charlene’s work on her website.