For the past few years I have been building an ongoing collection of tree images found on my regular hiking excursions into the San Gabriel Mountains. The trees on this range are rugged and show off the weathering they endure in an extreme environment. Each tree is unique and has it’s own individual character, and seen together, the trees represent a diversity that is not unlike the diversity of members within a family or individuals within a community. Bonsai gardeners have trees such as these in mind when they cultivate their miniaturized versions that mimic older, more natural trees. The “theatricality” of Bonsai has always intrigued me –it’s as if the tree is an actor on the stage, acting out the drama of a “real” tree. But of course, the Bonsai is in reality, a tree. I find this crossover between what is natural and what is designed to be at the core of my work.
I always begin with a “head shot”, a detailed rendering of the tree in gouache that I can later use as a reference for more “staged” compositions that involve multiple trees (directed into a “tree drama”, as it were). These paintings take on a narrative quality, mirroring back both the tension and sense of connection that we might find in our own lives – within our families and other social relationships. I give titles to the paintings that suggest a variety of complicated exchanges between the players in these dramas. Are they stuck in the roles that they were assigned in their formative years, grounded in place and unable to change – or can they transcend these definitions and grow in their own direction, through self-determination. This same question could be asked to ourselves.