When the editors at Ashland Creek Press went looking for a cover for their newest publication, "Balance of Fragile Things," by Olivia Chadha, they didn't have to look very far.
During a fair at the Briscoe Art Wing, they happened upon Pegi Smith's paintings, and they knew she was the perfect match for the book.
"Finding the right image for a book cover is always a challenge, but when we saw Pegi's artwork, we were just drawn to it," said editor Midge Raymond, who, with her husband John Yunker, founded Ashland Creek Press. " 'Balance of Fragile Things' is a lovely novel with environmental themes, and part of that is connected to butterflies. Pegi's paintings fit with the book's nature themes," she added.
The couple selected Smith's "On the Wings of Butterflies," from the artist's series of wing paintings ranging from butterflies to doves to dragons. The paintings are all in rich, earthy colors, with delicate subjects seeming to float across the canvas, or in this case, the book cover.
"Balance of Fragile Things" is the story of a mixed Indian and Latvian family learning to come together in difficult times, while they unravel a potentially devastating environmental mystery.
The novel opens with teenager Vic Singh finding a dead blue butterfly in his upstate New York village and quietly unfolds the story of Vic's family and a web of environmental connections to the mysterious butterfly. The book is a love letter to families and a celebration of their inevitable complications and their resiliency. It also offers a strong environmental message, combining scientific discussions of far-reaching ecological abuses and poetic descriptions of butterflies and their habitat. It's this message and the warm tone of the book that Raymond and Yunker wanted reflected in their book cover.
Although Smith, who lives in the Colestin Valley, has enjoyed success as a sculptor, painter and musician, this is the first time her work has been used on a book cover.
"When Midge and John asked me about doing the book cover, I thought that was great, but when I heard it was an environmental book, I wanted to do it right away. I love being connected to something with such an important message," said Smith.
Smith said her paintings reflect her personal connection with nature and her own emotions. While she had been sculpting for a long time, she came to painting only six years ago. "The first time I painted anything, it was because I was angry. I got pissed at my boyfriend and just wanted to channel those feelings. As I was painting, I realized that I had something here, that I wanted to keep on doing it. It's where my focus is now and it feels right," she said.
Both Smith and Raymond were pleased to be working locally. "It's always good to support other local businesses and local artists. I'm happy we found each other," said Raymond.
Smith added that while she wasn't looking to do a book cover, she was excited to find her work fit in with this particular book. "I wouldn't want my painting connected with just anything. I'm glad it is a book that reflects my values about conservation and nature," she said.
Ashland Creek Press offers a number of fiction works with environmental themes. Raymond says that eco-fiction can be a gateway to environmental discussion.
"It's a growing trend," said Raymond. "Eco-fiction is an excellent way to share environmental facts but at the same time tell a story and show the emotional connections we can make with the natural world."
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.