Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Personal Symbolism

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Solitary Life
Mixed Media, 22 x 15

Off and on I've talked about my efforts to use more symbolism in my art. Though this painting is representational, it is full of personal symbolism. Some of my personal symbols are easy to explain, such as my use of Native American petroglyph embellishment in my paintings. Or the "Asian" feel of some of my work. But the other day an artist friend posed these questions: I wonder who is this lone tree? You? Your mom? Your daughters, husband?? It seems an important image.

In an earlier post, I talked about this tree on the Rogue River that I find remarkable. It is a real landmark along the river and I've wanted to paint it for 10 years or more--paint it with feeling and in a way to do it justice. All that said, my friend's questions made me think more about it's personal symbolism for me. 

The easiest answer is that it represents the solitariness of life. For me, I realized sometimes in my 20's (in a state of angst, of course) that I am ultimately alone. I have close family, friends, acquaintances that I share my external life with, but my internal journey is always a solo trip. And my creation of art is a solo trip. As a parallel to a human's life, this tree leads a solitary and precarious existance as it clings to the rocks, and reaches so far down to the earth. The roots are a tenuous connection to what the tree needs to survive.

But does this tree represent a person? Well, me in a way, but when I thought of "mother," it struck a chord. My mother is now 97, living in a facility. Her body is wearing out and she is confined to a wheelchair. Her brain has worn out--most times when she sees me she asks, "Who are you?" Alzheimer's disease has taken her memories, and is slowly taking her vocabulary. More and more often she cannot come up with a word she needs to complete the simplest thought. So as her use of her mind and body diminishes, her core organs cling to life. The heart keeps pumping, the lungs breath in and out, her body takes in nourishment and emits waste. For her, this is the final and ultimate solo trip.

For me, there are more trees to come.

1 comment:

Ruth Armitage said...

Thank you for sharing some of the symbolism for this piece. I found it deeply moving. Wishing you peace along your solo journey, and know that friends are as close as your computer to keep you company :)