Jackie and David Pueschel visited between 30 and 40 countries and 48 states in their travels, captured in paintings and images that will hang in the Barnes Gallery at Leverett Crafts & Arts during the month of June.
Reminder Publishing photo by Doc Pruyne

LEVERETT — Three lionesses were feeding on a water buffalo when Jackie and David Pueschel made it to an overlook. David said the crunch of bones in the dusk, “was a bit unsettling.”

The hyenas scared Jackie. A hyena’s bite can snap the leg of a lion. Dozens of hyenas waited on a rise, yipping and growling, hungry for scraps.

“There’s a tremendous yapping and a horrible sound as they move in,” Jackie said. “They just pester the lions to say they’ve had enough.”

Leverett residents Jackie and David Pueschel, painter and photographer, were on safari in South Africa, one of their many travels to exotic lands. The Pueschels learned that if they don’t get out of the Land Rover, wave their hands or lock eyes with a lion, they’ll be okay — but one of David’s photographs, taken with a standard lens, is a close up.

“The guide drove right up to it, didn’t tell us what, and said, ‘Look over your left shoulder,’” David said.

On their African safari, the Pueschels learned a lot about apex predators and a little about drumming. The Cave Hill Road residents found lots of music, beauty and spirit in their travels. This month, at Leverett Crafts & Arts, a show of their images and canvases offers glimpses of what the couple learned.

The artists learned about artmaking, but also about the shared spirituality of people in different cultures. Striking a balanced back and forth, Jackie talked about how she began painting eight years ago, when David bought her an easel and paints. David learned the finer points of photography by shooting tourist pictures. Jackie said that his images began to have an artist’s focus on the telling detail.

“Many many years ago it was overall shots: this is where I’ve been,” David said. “Now, it’s a detail that I’m interested in. That more speaks to the place. If you take that little piece out” the detail will capture the whole and be more visually interesting.

Jackie studies painting at Leverett Crafts & Arts. She enjoys painting some of the images David shoots. After practicing for eight years, now she envisions a canvas before she applies the pigments. Her paintings have also been, of late, composed with more control and intentionality.

“I’ve started to put things in pictures that make them interesting to view,” Jackie said. “Now, I’m seeing a picture before I paint it, not after.”

The couple, married for 50 years, tell stories about specific places. Jackie pointed to a group of paintings and photographs from Tibet. A family had come to worship at a temple. The temple stank of burning yak butter, the votive candles given as offerings to spirit. David’s photograph sought to capture the sadness of a father about to lose his son.

Temple visitors must walk around the mountain three times before they are allowed to enter. Every few steps on the journey, each visitor throws down a knee pad and prostrates themselves before spirit. David said, “It’s been a long long walk.”

“The boy is in Buddhist monk’s robes because … his father is bringing his son to join the order,” Jackie said. “You can see the anguish on the father’s face.”

Jackie often painted mountains, gushed about the dark cone-like volcanic mountains of the Marquesas Islands. A trip down the Colorado River gave her a chance to paint geography that flows like an abstract image. The couple visited 48 states and between 30 and 40 countries.

In a certain sense, everywhere the Pueschels went felt somehow familiar. David found that in many places the details change, but the worship of spirit is constant and similar.

“There may be some differences in the exact things we do, the rituals we have, but the feeling I have is that it’s all familiar,” David said. “It’s the feeling I’ve gotten from all the places … There’s a cultural veneer, but underneath we can agree [on] an awful lot in our spiritual selves.”

Jackie agreed. “Each culture had celebrations that expressed the same joys,” she said. “It was the same expression of fellowship, so I think we’re finding commonality of the human spirit.”

The show of work by Jackie and David Pueschel, “Travel the World”, will hang in the Barnes Gallery of Leverett Crafts & Arts during the month of June, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m.