While working on “Wooded Terrain,” I naturally gravitated to different techniques, materials, and design elements for further exploration. Working on the raw surface of a wooded panel, I have been drawing with charcoal and pastels along with acrylic pens. This is a significant departure from a number of my prior media. I am captivated with linework and forming extensive networks of complex and interweaving undulating patterns with organic textures and shapes. This series has undoubtedly introduced a new process of creative contemplation.
The subject matter of the interconnectedness of trees itself has also been an ongoing area of study and research. While working on the series, I noticed the proximity that human musculature and anatomy have with the patterns and the structure of trees. All of a tree’s elements, such as trunks, roots, and branches, can similarly be identified both visually and symbolically with arms, legs, torsos, hair, muscle tissue, and their contours and forms.
Some of the similarities are in large part due to the symbolic characteristics of a tree’s form. “The tree is a stabilizer, a model of both uprightness and firmness.” (G. Bachelard, Earth, and Reveries of Repose, Chapter 9) Other commonalities between trees and human anatomy are closely connected to their repeating patterns with similar characteristics through fractal growth structures.
To evaluate these interconnections between human and tree archetypes, I drew further inspiration from Gaston Bachelard’s philosophical and psychological reflections in association with trees.
“The imagination is a tree. It has the tree’s integrating virtues. It is both root and bough, living between earth and sky, in the earth and in the wind. Little by little, the imagined tree is the cosmological tree, the tree that sums up a universe, that makes a universe.”
Within the context of human anatomy, my attention turned to the forms of bonds that draw bodies together. The human embrace is one of the most powerful and universal of these forms of interconnection.
“Does not the tree think twice over, first as it gathers together all that its myriad roots have won, and then as it multiplies the dialectic of its branches? What a splendid expository method arborescence is! And when being is caught in the collar between root and stem, what a close embrace this is! It’s a force…The root overcomes the obstacle by getting round it. It insinuates its truths; it stabilizes being by its multiplicity…[and] has therefore touched this deep node of being, the point where unity resides and from which there radiates in us, illuminating the world with a single thought, all the hidden treasure of its similes.”
The following reflection centers on our identification and fascination with rooted depths for their power and dynamism.
“I would like to place myself at the furthest point on the roots and contemplate the powerful action of the pores that draw life in; I would watch life pass from the heart of the fertile molecule into the pores that, like branches, awaken it and attract it with melodious calls. I would be a witness to the ineffable love with which it rushes toward the being that invokes it and to the joy of that being. I would be present when they embrace.”
Maurice de Guerin, Le Cahier vert, 246.
An additional inspiring symbol is the “infinite tree.” As a Platonic ideal, the tree has become an emblem of an idealized form of human ambition.
“It lived only by growing, in a kind of extravagant excess and mad arborescence…This tree was, because of this, a sort of mind and spirit. The highest part of mind and spirit lives only by growing.”
Paul Valery, Dialogue de l’arbre, 207
The great variety of associations and interconnections between trees and human beings has expanded my appreciation for the evolving potential of this new series of artworks.