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Transitioning to the Tree of Life

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Out of Balance

and “network” themed works leading to the Tree of Life Series

Tour the Exhibit “Aesthetic Experiments” online.  Use the links below to navigate to other sections of the exhibit.

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Out of balance

Out of Balance is one of my first mixed media paintings after I started switching from mostly oil painting to acrylic paint and compatible media.   We had a cat who liked to rub up against wet paintings, and water based acrylic is much easier to remove from a cat (It still involves quite a bit of “puss puss sweet kitty” and chasing kitty around with a wet rag, but it’s better than turpentine.)

The subject of Out of Balance is a very abstracted vegetative form, representing a network of some sort.  There are several acrylic and mixed media works on display that refer to networks and highly interconnected systems on exhibit, including “Neural network” and “Information Network”.  These pieces grew out of a fascination with two very current ideas: Ecological Order and Emergent Properties.

Emergent properties is a phrase used to describe the new properties that appear in a complex messy system.  These properties are not a linear combination of the components or inputs, and arise or “emerge” from the apparent chaos.  Examples are found in Neurology/intelligence, weather patterns and economics, and other fields.


Urban Ecology, 30 x 30 inches, oil over acrylic on canvas (Sold)

Ecological order is the idea that many complex systems are organized like ecologies.  Instead of being built up hierarchically onto complex nested ordered structures, the whatever-is-becoming-ordered is organized through a multitude of connections or relationships.  There may be nesting and layers of order, but the multitude of connections or relationships is more important.  The ecologically ordered system is robust while there are a lot of connections, but as the ecology is challenged and connectivity is lost it becomes very fragile very fast.  The internet, our manufacturing base, social networks, Wall Street, and actual natural ecologies are all examples of systems that can be looked at through the lens of Ecological Order.

Mixed Media paintings (example, Dreams of Awakened Souls)
Mixed Media paintings (example, Dreams of Awakened Souls)

Dreams of Awakened Souls, 24 x 42, oil over acrylic with mixed media (Sold)

Order emerging and of ecological order driven by complexity and connectivity were the inspirations for my Tree of Life Series.  The series started from paintings that were very vaguely tree-like, but with a connected vegetative motif.  Out of Balance is an Example.  Two sold works, “Urban Ecology” and “Dreams of Awakened Souls” also explore these ideas with vaguely organic connectors alluding to a network or a Tree of Life.

After completing several paintings on networked Systems using vaguely tree-like motifs, I began to consider trees as potent symbols throughout human history and trees as physical lifeforms that are keystones of our ecology – important species in maintaining a habitable Earth.  The Tree of Life Series develops and explores these ideas, placing them in a Contemporary context.

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Breathe – Tree of Life #4,

30 x 30, Acrylic with glass retroreflective beads on canvas (Sold)

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