|My original acrylic painting, Symbiosis: Peacock Ocelot Tree|
I’ve always had an affinity for swirls. Looking around my house, I see swirls everywhere – in a Klimt print, on African telephone wire baskets, on modern metal wall and table sculptures, on a Japanese raku vase. I could go on and on, but you get the point. And lately, I’ve been painting trees with swirled branches and roots. When I’m drawing these trees, my hand just flows. The swirls seem to emerge naturally when I’m felting too. Sometimes, the little wisps of wool just want to make a swirl, and I go with it. These swirls just come to me, almost subconsciously. Most of you have probably doodled some swirls in your day, so you may have an idea of what I’m talking about. It just feels freeing to draw swirls.
|Zulu telephone wire basket|
Anyway, I figured given all the things in my house with swirls, it wasn’t just me. I looked into it and found this fascinating discussion on www.zenzibar.com. Not surprisingly, I learned that the swirl or “cosmic spiral” is a nearly universal symbol. The swirl has appeared throughout the ages and across many cultures, including Celtic, Arabic, Native American, Japanese, Australian, Hindu and African. The meanings vary somewhat, but it is consistently a positive symbol of life, rebirth, growth, energy and/or creativity. The swirl or spiral appears in nature in shells, storms, the ram’s horn, the coils of snakes and vines and even the form of the galaxy itself.
|Raku pottery vase with swirl|
What I liked most about the Zenzibar discussion was the notion that we experience the path of life as a spiral: that as we grow, we circle back around to similar places and experiences, but each time with a new perspective and enhanced understanding. I really feel this way about my art. I started out as a kid drawing, coloring, doing all sorts of crafts -- just for fun. In my twenties, I liked to make things for myself to wear – jewelry, painted denim jackets – things that allowed me to express my creativity and individuality. In my thirties, as a young mom, I started a business creating hand-painted children’s furniture and art called Stroke of Whimsy. Again I painted denim jackets, but this time with the little ones in mind. That’s just where my focus was at that stage in my life. After a few years, I shut down that business because the renovation of our house had become a full time job.
|I spotted this art deco style vase |
at a restaurant last weekend.
At that point, I began another pass of my life’s swirl and all of my creative energy turned to matters of architecture and interior design. Even when our house was done, I enrolled in a masters program to study architecture and interior design. And although I loved art school and learned so much, I realized that a career in interior design was not a good fit for my life right now. I still wanted to be home and available to my kids, and perhaps more importantly, I wanted the kind of true creative freedom that you just can’t have when you are designing for a client.
|Zazzy Peaock felted purse hook|
So here I am, in my forties, approaching my art from a perspective that really combines everything I’ve experienced, learned and loved up to this point. My creations are undoubtedly influenced by architecture and modern design, as well as by nature. (It just so happens that swirls feature prominently in art deco design, one of my favorite styles.) I’m incorporating my children’s art as well. I enjoy felting flowers and ladybugs, inspired not only by the many beautiful little girls in my life (nieces and daughters of friends) but also by nostalgia for my own childhood. My love of painting animals is now expressed by incorporating animal prints and patterns in my painting and felting. And I’m once again designing jewelry, but I think in a much more sophisticated way than I did in my twenties. Well, hopefully, I am more sophisticated than I was in my twenties!
At this moment, the swirls I’m most excited about are my tree paintings. I painted them before I learned all this about the universal meaning of swirls and spirals, and yet undoubtedly the swirls in my paintings symbolize life and creative energy. Beyond this universal meaning, the entwined swirled branches symbolize symbiosis, the interdependence of all living things and the hope that, despite our differences, we can all find a way to live in harmony. I know it’s a little corny, but that is my wish for the world. It is Valentine’s Day after all. In the words of John Lennon, “All we need is love.”
|My original acrylic painting, Symbiosis: Leopard Giraffe Tree|