Sacred Roots: the symbolic, scientific, and aesthetic representations of flora in art
April 25 – July 22, 2023 Opening Night: April 25 @ 5:00 p.m.
The ties between plants and human life has been a visual conversation for thousands of years. Arboreal imagery is filled with a double valency: not only rooted and sessile, but continuously growing a relationship to human experiences and evolving through time.
Sacred Roots explores the ongoing significance of flora to human life, consciousness, and spirituality. Representations of the symbolic, scientific, and aesthetic relationships to the plant kingdom have served as facets of understanding the importance that plant life has to historical and cultural uses of medicine, food, technology, religion and spirituality, metaphysics, ecology, and climate change. These timeless motifs of flora have provided specific interpretation or mysticism to both the art world and natural world and continues to shape our perception of the cosmos, our beliefs, and our minds.
The relevance of trees to folklore, religion, and culture is a very broad topic drawing on anthropology, history, linguistics, and theology, re-drawn, re-written, and re-conceived over time. Whether we know it or not, we still use tree symbolism in everyday life – family trees, dendritic (root-like) patterns of drainage for streams, dendrites in our brains, even Dollar Trees, or on the reverse side of a dime.
For many people trees are the largest and oldest living things in their lives and also the most inspirational. Trees make us look up. They connect the living and non-living worlds: roots dwell in the underground world, the trunk connects that world with where we live. Trees go beyond, to the heavenly world, appearing by their branches to hold up the heavens. In their seasonal cycles of growth, trees exhibit birth and death, prefiguring resurrection. Put another way, a tree models the universe with its roots, stem, and branches suggesting planes of existence in the nether world, upper, and heavenly realms. Hence, ‘tree of life.’
The concept of a tree modeling our universe is found in many cultures. Just one example is the Norse Tree of Life known as Yggdrasil where the gods cavorted and dragons hung out. For Judaism and Christianity, the Tree of Life is described in the Book of Genesis as being in the midst of the Garden of Eden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Deeper appreciation of trees—as one easily comprehended component of the ecosphere —could be a bridge between religion and ecology or at least a common point of discussion. One way to express this deeper appreciation is through sacralization of nature. Sacralization is different than worshipping nature but rather seeing the Divine in nature. The value of sacralization is to highlight the appreciation of trees as part of the natural order seen through the eyes of religions adherents.