My drawings of trees are about visual filters and modifying a language of shapes and marks to convey a sense of flow and rhythm.
Much of the vocabulary of movement—of exhalation and inspiration—itself reflects the processes of trees with oxygen and carbon dioxide. The capillary motions of a tree drawing water into itself from the soil, parallel circulatory structures within humans. And the branching and spreading of arteries into arterioles into capillaries are themselves the mechanisms of the growth of trees and their roots and of the downstream flow of the Mississippi River and its delta.
An infrared aerial photograph of the Mississippi Delta looks just like a tree.
Trees also have obvious visual parallels with the imagery of neurons and synapses. Histologies of the cerebellar Purkinje cells look exactly like trees.
When a tree exists in the world (as opposed to in our imaginations or as a metaphor), it is seemingly solid. But the volumes contained within its branches are more air than wood. This air eddies and swirls among the trees’ clefts and branches; air currents move its leaves and, by extension, the whole tree.
Trees are the standing figures of the horizontal landscape, their postures determined by access to the light and the presumptions of other trees. Although rooted in place, their movements in the wind comprise gestures. From a distance, trees are pure geometry and color. Up close, they defy the brain’s generalizing tendencies with subtle off-axial twists of their trunks and branches, a million leaves, or, in winter, a fractal attenuation of their branches into stalks into a spray of twigs spread like fingers.
The spaces between branches are activated, shaped by how the tree holds these spaces. I look for the scars from amputated limbs and the shapes of sunlight and air through spaces in the canopy and treat them equally; one is solid form but both are defined by a lack, by the tree. To see how a tree holds light, I look at the shadows it casts, how, as on water, it casts ripples and waves of shade which flow across the grass, separating, reconstituting, then branching again. Beneath the grass are its mirror forms
Trees like rivers are essential circulatory systems. In New Orleans, when I walk next to the river, I tend to see the Mississippi for its immediate physical qualities, its churning currents, the colors reflected by its surface, the movements of birds at its margins.
In my work, I have thought a great deal about margins: where air meets the solid edge of a surface, where human awareness encounters its other, in the animal.