Tree of Life
2010, acrylic on unstretched canvas, 37 x 82", by Jenny Badger Sultan
This painting followed “Family Roots.” I guess the tree wanted to grow up out of the roots and reaffirm life after a period of illness and difficulty.
The Tree of Life or World Tree is a very widespread image and symbol from cultures around the world. It connects the three realms--sky, earth and underground--and can represent the cycle of regeneration and rebirth.
I just worked very freely, with flowing and curving forms until branches began to coalesce. At the base is a snake encircling an egg, which contains an indigenous woman healer, an image suggested by a dream play I had been in at the Dream Institute in Berkeley.
Flowers and animals and people developed. I was particularly pleased when the embracing couple showed up in the fork of the tree.
Right below them a strange creature was suggested by the accidents of the paint--I recognized it as an axolotl, a type of Mexican salamander with a face like a smiling baby. It is in serious decline in the wild and its survival seems like a measure of the well being of our planet. I had drawn one at the old Academy of Sciences when I would take my drawing classes there to draw.
In fact, while working on this painting, I brought out the portfolio of animal drawings that I had done there over the years, and used them as a resource.