After over a year, here it is. The longest journey thus far I have taken with a painting. The age old symbolism of the tree of life is addressed in every spiritual tradition. It is interesting that the overlap of meaning exists in all our cultural practices, the strongest and most meaningful to me being the idea of Unity. All life is connected. This was pretty powerful for me, considering my painting life is always weaved with my living, and what I notice.
In case you were wondering, she started out as a tree. I originally intended to make a tree of life like every one else out there... a tree depicting all of life in some way. I went pretty far with this intent, and then one day it hit me that it wasn't right. So much for that.
After I decided that the tree idea was over, I began revisiting my photos for other personal work, perusing what I had that would niggle a response for a future painting. Then.. BAM! I saw her. This pose just jumped out instantly as the starting point to begin again, and it took on a life of its own.
Instead of beginning a new panel, I decided to work with the one I started. I sanded it down some, and began painting right over the tree. I sat with the initial stage of that for a long time, looking at the previously made paint textures and opting to keep much of it, building more texture on top of it. It reminds me so much of life. We build upon what we started, whether we use what we learned in previous experiences or not, it's still there, somewhere in our being, to pull from and respond to.
Working with this young woman is very symbolic for me, as is my use of women in general. She is on the cusp of a new beginning, surrounded by a nebulous future- or past, but grounded on a stone, which in turn is settled on the changeable force that is water. Strength in movement, confidence in uncertainty. Faith in understanding that the questions are just important as the answers. Being moored on an island of wondering is not a place of weakness, but an opportunity to stay calm enough to appreciate the next conscious step.
She IS the life force. It courses within her, lively, energized, and fully aware of her connection to all that breathes.