MICHAEL Cranford came to Costa Rica to be an artist. Moving here in 2000, he was inspired by the natural beauty of the rainforest surrounding his home just outside Puerto Jiménez on the Southern Zone’s OsaPeninsula.
Almost all of his work reflects the tropical setting in which he lives. One does not have to look too hard at many of his brightly colored painting to see that there is a deeper message behind the work. That message, Cranford says is “to be open and aware of what’s going on in the world.”
Some of the pieces have stronger message than others. “If I were to express anything in my artwork, it would be ‘Protect the Resources,’” Cranford says. But points out that while some pieces have a strong message, such as the series he did last year that incorporated depictions of organs such as the heart, lung and brain with rainforest themes, others are more lighthearted.
HOWEVER, the message in Cranford’s most recent piece is clearly evident. He describes the work as a 3-dimensional, interactive piece. The five-by –fourfoot painting took Cranford two months to complete. As viewers pass the triangular work entitled “It’s Not My Fault,” the lush rainforest they first view becomes a clearcut pasture.
Several of these works are currently on display at the Café de Artistas in Escazú. The exhibit, entitled “Open Your Eyes,” goes on auction from7-9 p.m. on Mar. 4, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to the Corcovado Foundation.
The foundation is working to raise $13 million to purchase the land that used to connect CorcovadoPark with Piedras Blancas and to protect the land, which is home to numerous plants and animal species. Information on the foundation will also be available, showing guests how to donate directly if they are not interested in purchasing the art.
“THIS is really important, because it will restore the corridors, which are home to some of the most endangered animals, and will provide rangers to help conserve this beautiful place, which is the last piece of rainforest between Ecuador and Seattle,” Cranford says.
Recognizing the effects that people have on the ecosystem took Cranford some time. He was not an environmentalist when he first arrived. However, after seeing firsthand the destruction of the area surrounding CorcovadoNational Park, he felt the need to do something.
“I started to understand the negative impact that people can have on the environment,” he says.
He became involved with the Cecropia Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the OsaPeninsula, the second largest area of biodiversity in the world. He has since begun working with the Corcovado Foundation.
IN the four years since he moved to Costa Rica, Cranford has noticed that the forest is disappearing. From his studio he often hears chainsaws while he paints. Often he sees trucks loaded with timber leaving in the middle of the night. According to Cranford, while some of the logging is legal, a great deal of it is not. However, he feels that people, perhaps because they are not directly exposed to it, don’t seem to realize the problem.
Cranford knows that this will not stop overnight, but hopes raising awareness of the problems will bring about eventual change. He is going to do what he can to make a positive impact.
“WE all have to learn at our own pace,” Cranford says. He just hopes that people become aware of the problem facing the rainforest before it’s too late.
Cranford’s paintings range from $200 to $2,000 and come in all sizes. His work is currently on display around Costa Rica, including pieces at Sí Como No Hotel in Manuel Antonio, Lookout Inn in Ojochal and Juanita’s Mexican Bar and Restaurant in Puerto Jiménez. They can be viewed at www. michaelin costarica.com.
For more info on the event at Café de Artistas, call 288-5082. For info on the Corcovado Foundation, see www. corcovadofoundation.org.