The most resilient and unexpectedly beautiful plants that exist in the urban landscape are plants that we normally consider weeds. Emerging from cracked pavement, filling vacant lots, cascading over aging fences and sprouting in flowerbeds, “weeds,” if one bothers to take an intimate look, are exquisite specimens of plants that can heal and nourish. The title Entwined describes not only the growing pattern of these plants but the relationship between weed families and their environment —a perfect metaphor for urban life.
The two series of paintings that comprise the exhibition Entwined are The Healing Garden and Thicket. Both feature plants that I observe on a daily basis, such as the dandelions that thrive in the cracked pavement of my sidewalk. The plants that I paint are perennials which often have medicinal qualities. From honeysuckle, echinacea, and dandelion to wild carrots (Queen Anne's Lace), these common, hearty plants, often considered undesirable, survive the elements and have the power to heal.
The Healing Garden depicts various common weeds in clusters, juxtaposed against deep, colorful backgrounds. Each painting is like a family portrait, from baby buds to withered flora, embodying the many stages of human life from birth to death. The weeds are depicted larger than life, closer to the scale of humans, to enable the viewer to absorb the emotive gestures and intense interactions between the subjects. In The Healing Garden, the weeds feel like giant characters on a stage, acting out the dynamic relationships that make families so unique.
Inspired by the honeysuckle thicket growing over the fence in my own backyard in Jersey City, Thicket is a companion series of oil paintings that depict a tangled mass of branches and leaves, growing and changing with the seasons. The Thicket paintings portray a microcosm of a community—living organisms supporting one another and coexisting in harmony. In the warmth of summer, the thicket is a lush, green overgrowth full of mystery and depth. In winter the thicket becomes an abundance of dead leaves and dried branches, growing through the darkness, never alone and always facing the sun. The Thicket series is a testament to the reproductive power of nature and the enduring cycle of life.
Haunting, foreboding, yet warmly embracing, the forest has captured my imagination since childhood. I grew up spending summer days knee deep in thicket, exploring the woods behind my house, and developing a love and fascination for the diverse canopy of trees—the silent dignity of the massive tree trunks and the wildly exuberant mixing of leaves, twigs and branches.
For the past ten years, I have combined memories of the mystical forest of my childhood with contemporary studies of trees into large-scale oil paintings that explore the primordial fairy tale forest as a metaphor for the loss of innocence and the desire to return to a childlike state. This deep connection between trees and the human psyche has led me to my most recent series, Arboreal Portraits.
As life experience etches itself on the human body, the indentations, knots and rings of a tree represent how it too has weathered time. Using this metaphor, I created Arboreal Portraits, a series of paintings of individual trees—birch, conifer and palm to name a few—posed against atypical jewel-toned backgrounds that emphasize the uniqueness of each tree. When viewed together, the trees appear as a family, united by their compositional structure, yet distinctively different from one another.
Playing upon the universal symbol of the family tree, the paintings in Arboreal Portraits are titled after women in my family. For example, Henrietta is named after my grandmother, originally from Spain, who grew up in Casablanca. Ultimately, she moved to Florida, where she found comfort in palm trees—they reminded her of “home.” It is this very intimate connection to trees—they represent both where we come from and who we are—that I seek to illuminate in this work. In Arboreal Portraits, I express the powerful and resilient relationship between individuals and the universe through the venerable symbol of the tree.