The Fig Tree
We have two fig trees that we winter over in the garage. For the past two years, we have enjoyed any figs that the chipmunks happened to miss.
This year, the larger one died. Buds were at the end of each branch, but as the weeks went by, buds on the smaller one burst open, while the larger tree seemed to have given up on its yearly task of fig making. In other words: it looked dead.
Even if the tree were dead, it still had the most beautiful gestures. Its branches seemed to be holding up the stars and reaching for the clouds. There was poetry in its shape.
I have the reputation in the neighborhood of painting things that have seen better days (Judy’s Journal 2009 June - Response to the Ice Storm: A Collaboration). The fig tree would be no different. Paints came out, take-out containers for mixing colors appeared, and barrels were overturned to hold a board: Voila! John had created my outdoor studio once again.
The joy in transforming the tree into a sculpture is indescribable. Trust me, making art is the closest thing to heaven on earth. Our neighbor came over to see it, and my husband said, “Don’t stand still, or she will slap a coat of paint on you!” Our neighbor shook his head, smiled and asked, “What inspired you?”
That made me think. Where did the designs come from? Where did the impulse to mix those colors originate? Artists do not work alone. We are surrounded by invisible, but powerful memories and experiences, just waiting to appear when we need them.
There were four inspirations for The Fig Tree (now it has a capitalized title). Certainly, painting over two hundred stumps for our ice storm installation gave me experience. Another source I can pinpoint is visiting Gaud í’s Parc G üell in Barcelona (Judy’s Journal 2008 June). Two more recent sources were on film: “The Rite of Spring” danced by the Joffrey Ballet on YouTube and “Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies.” Both showed the choreography of dancers and the colors of their costumes, which imprinted on my brain for ready reference. Who knew that I would need to be calling on these four sources of inspiration in order to paint a dead tree?