In the Field

Suriname: Sipaliwini District, Wilhelmina Mountains

Peak 7.6 km N. of Juliana Top,
GPS: 3°N, 56°W; alt 905m


In late March – April 2010, I accompanied a collecting trip with the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University to a remote area of central Suriname that had never before been explored. Our collecting site was on an unnamed mountaintop above an unnamed river in what are the highest mountains of Suriname (the Wilhelmina Range). The greater region is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Central Suriname Nature Preserve and considered to be one of the largest untouched tropical forests in the world.

Members of the expedition included Kristof Zyskowski, Bernd Heinrich, and Mei Chin, as well as Andre Semmie (Surinamese man who works part time for Conservation International) and Cairo, a Surinamese game warden.

The experience of landing in an unnamed and untainted area was spectacular. Soon we inevitably took ownership of the land, clearing to make camp and cutting and naming, trails. The process of distorting the landscape through language and perception (familiarization) is one of the things that I’m interested in exploring in my painting and writing.

Generous funding for this trip was provided by the Richard P. Garmany Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

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Helicopter landing on bare rock in wilhelmina mountains

Painting a green tree viper in the work tent

Bernd Heinrich and Kristof Zyskowski in the work tent

James Prosek in the work tent

James Prosek painting a motmot

Our collecting sheet for moths

Moths at the light; white witch moth in center

With Bernd Heinrich and Semmie, holding white bellbird

Painting a Guianian toucanet

Kristof with chestnut-tipped toucanet

Green tree viper, Bothriopsis bilineata

Atelopus toad