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“Be the Tree” – artist statement

These tree paintings continue my last 2008 show of evergreen paintings at WSG, “The Next Brushstroke.” Those paintings emphasized the drama between detail, the single brushstroke and the unified whole image. These paintings have a warmer palette. They are meant to suggest that the interplay of light in the sky and branches are metaphors for ideas – for playfulness and inventiveness, potential for a warmer, brighter future.

The trees depicted have been transformed into paint with all its expressiveness! They are based on longtime day-to-day close observation and the joy of seeing real evergreens surrounding Dow Field in the Arboretum and the white pines in our back yard.

My first pine tree painting dating from the late 1930s was about mimesis, getting the painting to look like a grove of pine trees. Now I’m interested in how the subject can organize and build the perceptual and emotional depth of the painting, the flow of the paint and the interplay of its contrasting, painterly qualities. Those qualities can suggest serenity and calm as well as the intensely focused energy of a meditation. Cezanne was said to identify with the landscape he painted; he was perhaps the first to “be the tree” he was painting. He seems to me to have generated a kind of blissful transcendence of seeing the natural world.

Perhaps the 13th century poet Rumi referred to this bliss when he wrote:

You are in my eye.
How else can I see the light?
You are in my brain
This wild joy!

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