Trees, trees, trees – I seem to have become obsessed with trees.
A couple of months ago a collector started me on a journey into the life of trees. He had written to inquire about a piece of mine that had been in his family for fifteen years called Into the Woods. Seeing that piece from so long ago made me realize that over the years I have painted and drawn many trees. I decided to explore the tree of life symbol even more fully in my work.
Throughout human history, trees have been powerful symbols. Most all creation stories include a tree of life, which often allude to the mystical concept of the interconnectedness of all life. To me personally, the single tree represents the enduring, cyclical nature of life; woods or forests are symbolic of the mystery of primordial life. Human beings resonate deeply with trees, who like us, reach down to the ground and up to the sky at the same time.
Recently people have commented that many of my tree images look very female or anthropomorphic. Upon reflection, I can see this is true. I spent a couple of days this week down at the Rio Grande drawing the Cottonwood trees in their annual display of golden finery. After five or so hours of staring at, and drawing a tangle of Cottonwoods, I began to see the actual trees as human figures. The almost black trunks became graceful dancers against a backdrop of golds, greens, and blues.
In Sacred Geometry there is a concept called “squaring the circle” or “the marriage of heaven and earth.” Here the circle, representing the spiritual, is surrounded by a square, representing the physical.
To me, tree symbolism expresses this same concept. The roots reach down into the earth, the physical, while the branches and leaves reach up to the sky, the spiritual; heaven and earth are married in the body of the tree.
On the physical level, trees provide us with so much. They are the lungs of the planet, breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen; they provide shelter; they provide food; they provide shade; they provide fuel. Mystics and cutting edge scientists agree; the physical is a manifestation of the spiritual, the unified field. We’re all connected. Perhaps my desire to work with images of trees at this time is a physical manifestation of humanity’s spiritual need to reconnect with the natural world. At a time when the old paradigm has brought us to the brink of destruction via global climate change, war, and disease, trees are a good reminder of the sacredness of Mother Earth. Hug a tree; plant a tree; love Mother Earth.
To view more images of my work with trees visit http://judithshawart.com/portfolio/trees-flowers-and-nature