On view at The Watershed, Pennington, NJ until June 14, 2019
“If someone offers you ten thousand dollars or ten trees, take the trees.”
Alex Hutchinson, writer “How Trees Calm Us Down” The New Yorker, 2015
I think it’s true that every person we meet and every experience we have mirrors a part of us. Is this true for all living organisms?
I think about Trees and wonder what our reflections are telling each other. I know when I walk in the forest, my anxiety and stress lowers. My breathing becomes fuller and my thoughts shift to a higher ground… it feels like nature is taking me into her limbs and administering the exact medicine I need for that day. What am I doing for the Trees?
And if we are placed on this Earth to recognize, express and share our unique gift, I imagine this must be true for all creatures. I think about Trees and the myriad of ways we have utilized their gifts on this planet. From paper, shelter and food to everyday objects. In their most natural state, they also create peace and beauty –– an urban street with Trees planted on either side has less crime and happier residents than a barren concrete block.
So it appears to me that their purpose is to protect and provide - and they do so with unwavering commitment and strength. Their most astonishing attribute, among all the others, is their ability to clean the air allowing us to breath! It's no wonder I feel better when I’m around them.
I am moved and humbled, and feel a certain discomfort, in how to possibly express my gratitude and reverence for these stoic creatures.
Back in my studio, I contemplate the great paintings in history depicting the devout worshiping of Christ, Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Trees are sacred in many parts of the world and are used as offerings of healing and prayer. Yet I wonder why there hasn’t been a great big movement in art that worships Trees? Placing them on a high pedestal with angels and cherubs flying about celebrating their glorious lives! They’ve been with humans from the beginning and have even survived mass extinction way before the dinosaurs. I think about their ability to survive and inevitably compare it to our own species. Humans oscillate between hope and despair in life - this seems confusing in the survival game and a meandering path that may lose direction. Trees seem to persevere no matter the condition and that to me is something to paint about!
There are thousands of Trees to be painted. In this small collection of works, I have chosen to paint a few of my favorites.
If inclined, I would love to hear about your experience with Trees.
“For every breath you take, thank a tree.”
Diana Beresford-Kroeger, scientist and acclaimed author
Trees provide food, create medicine, and most importantly, provide life-giving oxygen. Without trees and their ability to capture carbon dioxide, our living breathable atmosphere would cease to exist on our planet. Trees are the most important living organisms on earth, chemically affecting our environment more than anything else, and playing a vital role that sustains all life. Trees are literally the lifeline of the planet and the key to reversing climate change./ www.calloftheforest.ca “Call of the Forest - The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees”
American Sycamore/ Platanus occidentalis
Family: Plane tree
Height: 75 to 120 ft high Diameter: 4 to 10 ft/ Life Span: Up to 500 years. Fast-growing. Tolerates difficult environments./ Leaves: Broad, massive, maple-like leaves/ Fruit: Small, brown, burr-like ball which is a cluster of many small seed-like fruits called achenes with fuzzy hair-like structures attached. Monoecious./ Bark: Mottled bark which flakes leaving mottled gray, greenish-white and brown surface./ Roots: Fibrous and shallow./ Wood: Light brown, tinged with red; heavy, hard, difficult to split./ Aesthetic: Tall, grand-canopied tree, widely planted as a shade tree./ Dependents: Seeds eaten by many birds including purple finch, goldfinch, chickadees, and dark- eyed junco, muskrats, beavers, and squirrels. Hollow sycamores provide dens for black bear. Cavity nesting birds inhabit the sycamore including the barred owl, eastern screech-owl, great crested fly catcher, chimney swift, and the wood duck./ Uses: Grown commercially for pulp and rough lumber. Turns easily on a lathe for bowls and spoons. Music boxes, instruments, butcher blocks, wooden buttons./ Medicinal Uses: Bark: Tea used for colds, coughs, and lung ailments, measles, laxative. Tincture for eyelid tumors. Astringent properties to treat skin issues and eye wash./ Sap: Wound dressing/ Edible Uses: Sap: As a drink, wine or syrup./ Leaves: Large leaves (up to 10 inches across) can be used as a wrap for slow cooked food over coals for an added sweet flavor./ Other uses: Windbreak for exposed and maritime areas. Leaves are packed around apples and root crops to help preserve them./ Sycamores can grow so large they have hollow trunks and many settlers sought long-term shelter inside a sycamore. It was not uncommon to house a pig or horse inside a living sycamore.
American Beech/ Fagus grandifolia
Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)
Height: 65 - 130 feet Diameter:18 to 48 inches/ Lifespan: Can live up to 300 years./ Leaves: Broad, flat; simple; not lobed; course teeth; 2” to 5” long/ Fruit: Bur, commonly containing two nuts. Monoecious./ Roots: shallow and spreading/ Wood: Heavy, hard, tough and strong. Difficult to lumber without power tools, therefore many beech were left uncut before the 20th century./ Aesthetics: Beautiful smooth, blue-gray bark, leaves yellow-green in spring. Slow-growing, and favors shade./ Dependents: Ducks, wild turkeys, pheasants, blue jays, ruffed grouse, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, fox, deer, rabbits, opossums, black bears, porcupines./ Uses: Boxes, crates, pallets, furniture, flooring, doors, paneling, handles, brooms. Suitable for food containers imparting neither taste nor odor. Excellent charcoal for artwork./ Medicinal Uses: Leaves: Boiled as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash. Aids headaches and digestion./ Nuts: Medicinally used to destroy parasitic worms. Oils from the nuts stimulate hair growth, boost kidney function and help clear out toxins from the body./ Bark: As a tea for the treatment of lung ailments. Has been used to procure an abortion. The creosote made from beech wood is used to treat various human and animal disorders./ Edible Parts: Leaves: Raw or cooked when young, mildly flavored. Mature leaves tough and distasteful. Seed: Raw or cooked. Sweet and nutritious, rich in oil, containing up to 22% protein and high in Vitamin B6. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute./ Bark: Dried, ground into a powder as a thickening in soups and stews. Rich in lignans and antioxidant boosting your immune system./ Other uses: Seed: Oil as fuel for lamps/ Leaves and bark: Dyes/ The American beech needs plenty of moisture and rich soil to thrive and naturally occurs in bottomland forests. Early settlers often looked for beeches as a sign of a good potential place to clear the forest for farming.
Shagbark Hickory/ Carya ovata
Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut Family))
Height: 60 - 112 feet Diameter: 20 - 25 inches/ Life Span: Up to 350 years, slow-growing./ Leaves: Long, pinnate, with five leaflets./ Fruit Nuts: produced at 30 - 40 years old. Monoecious./ Roots: Bears a deep taproot./ Wood: Close-grained, heavy and very hard, extremely strong but flexible./ Aesthetics: Shaggy gray bark, leaves rich golden yellow in autumn./ Dependents: Ducks, bobwhites, wild turkey, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, black bears, fox./ Uses: Excellent quality wood, used for objects that require strength including bows, axe handles, ploughs, skis, drum sticks, tool handles, wheel spokes, sporting goods. Excellent for burning, giving off a lot of heat. A yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark. Popular for smoking meat and seafood. Burns very clean creating a long-lasting fire./ Medicinal
Uses: Leaves: Fresh small shoots steamed as an inhalant for treating headaches./ Bark: A extract of the bark has been taken internally to treat rheumatism and also used as a poultice on rheumatic joints./ Sap: Bug repellent when mixed with grease./ Edible Parts: Nuts: Nut milk and nut butter, baked goods. Significant food source for the Algonquins. Sap: sweet syrup
Maidenhair Tree/Ginkgo Biloba
Family: Ginkgophyta (The only living species in the division, all others extinct)
Height: 66 to 160 feet Diameter: 25 - 35 inches./ Life Span: Up to 3000 years/ Leaves: Unique among seed plants, fan-shaped with veins radiating out into the leaf./ Seed: Ginkgoes are dioecious, some trees being female and others male. Male plants produce small pollen cones. Female plants produce two ovules formed at the end of the stalk, and after pollination, one or both develop into seeds./ Roots: Deep-rooted and resistant to wind and snow damage./ Wood: Lightweight, brittle, yellow. Used for chess sets, chopping blocks and firewood./ Aesthetics: Prized for their deep saffron-yellow autumn foliage./ Dependents: Not favored by insects or birds. Only occasional squirrels occupancy is believed to be due to the offensive odor of the female seed./ Uses: Popular for the art of bonsai, Ginkgoes are kept artificially small, for centuries./ Medicinal Uses: Leaves: Extract derived from leaves are rich in antioxidants, phenolic compounds, flavinoids, terpenoids and other organic chemicals. It has been used medicinally for many health issues including: inflammation, heart health, brain function, dementia, anxiety, depression, vision health, blood pressure, nervous system, aging, pms, erectile dysfunction, asthma, hemorrhoids, altitude sickness, tinnitus, vertigo and many more./ Edible Parts:/ Fruit: Only on female tree. When the fruit is ripe, with a strong odor, it is split open and the white nut inside is steamed and eaten. Contains high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, sodium, phosphorus, potassium./ The Ginkgo Biloba is found in fossils dating back 270 million years.
Pin Oak/Quercus palustris
Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)
Height: 70 to 120 feet Diameter: 2 to 4 feet./ Life Span: Can live up to 600 years, slow growth rate, longevity./ Leaves: Five to seven lobes and u-shaped sinuses, 3 to 6 inches long, glossy./ Fruit: Acorns produced at 30 - 40 years old. Often at 60 years produces a full crop, reoccurring every 2 - 3 years. Monoecious./ Roots: Bears a deep taproot therefore does not transplant well after 2 growing seasons./ Wood: Heavy, very strong, hard, durable./ Aesthetics: Especially popular in autumn displaying majestic copper red and orange./ Dependents: Squirrels, wood ducks, white-tail deer, wild turkey, birds, insects./ Uses: Oak barrels, railroad ties, shingles, clap-boards, furniture, fuel wood./ Medicinal Uses: Bark: An infusion of the inner bark has been used to treat intestinal pains. Galls produce a potent astringent and can be used in the treatment of dysentery, gum disease, varicose veins. Used for skin care, digestion, bone health, vitality./ Edible Parts: Acorns: Rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid), vitamin B6, folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, and zinc. Candied acorns, acorn grits, acorn meal, acorn bread and cakes. Critical sustaining food to Native Americans often referred to as “Acorn Eating Tribes”. Dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening agent similar to cornstarch. Mixed with flours for making bread. The roasted acorn is used as a coffee substitute./ Other uses: A mulch of the leaves repels slugs and grubs. Oak galls are a rich source of tannin creating a rich black ink./ Was revered by the Druids as a Tree of Life for healing the sick and providing vitality from its fruit.
White Ash/ Fraxinus americana
Height: 85 to 100 ft high Diameter: 4 to 6 ft./ Life Span: Up to 250 years. growing./ Leaves: Leaflets are often ovate (egg-shaped). The leaves are whitish beneath. This tree contains opposite pinnately compounded leaves./ Fruit: Have long, narrow winged fruits or “keys” Dioecious./ Bark: Thick, dark gray, diamond-shaped furrows and interlacing ridges./ Roots: Broad root system./ Wood: Strong, straight-grained, light-weight, elastic, resilient, durable./ Aesthetic: Exquisite autumn colors - yellow, deep purple and maroon. Round-topped crown and spreading canopy. Dependents: White-tailed deer, cattle browse white ash. Beaver, porcupine, rabbits eat the bark. Leaves and seeds are eaten by butterfly, moth, caterpillars, wood duck, northern bob white, turkey, grouse, finches, grosbeaks, cardinals, fox, squirrel, mice. Cavity nesters - redheaded, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers./ Uses: The durable wood is used to make tool handles, oars, canoe paddles, hockey sticks, furniture, antique vehicle parts, snowshoes, cabinets, railroad cars and ties. White ash is the wood used for Louisville Slugger baseball bats./ Medicinal Uses: Leaves: Juice from the leaves has been applied to bites for relief of swelling and itching. Laxative and general tonic for women after childbirth. Anti-inflammatory and antirhumatismal, arthritis, rheumatism, gout./ Seed: aphrodisiac, a diuretic, appetite stimulant, a styptic, an emetic, fevers./ Bark: tea for an itching scalp, lice, snakebite, sores. Edible Uses: Leaves & Fruits: Medicinal wine, herbal teas, chewing gum, marinades for meats and vegetables.
The Ash Tree and the Emerald Ash Borer Emerald ash borer (EAB) attacks all species of ash native to the United State. / Both healthy and unhealthy trees can be attacked. / An Asian insect first identified in Detroit, Mich., in 2002, has become the most destructive forest insect to ever invade the U.S. / Tens of millions of ash trees have already been killed in forests and swamps, along waterways and in urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods. / Females lay a few eggs, tucking them beneath bark flaps or in bark crevices. / Larvae hatch from their eggs and chew through the rough outer bark to reach a layer of inner bark, called phloem. Here, the trees transport carbohydrates and other nutrients from the canopy down to the roots. / The larvae feed in s-shaped tunnels, called galleries, for several weeks. As the larvae grow, the galleries increase in size. Galleries often etch the outer ring of sapwood, which ash trees use to transport water up from the roots to the canopy. / The ability of the tree to transport nutrients and water is disrupted by the galleries. The canopy begins to thin, and large branches may die. Eventually, the entire tree succumbs.