Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Andrea Starkey's work can be found at her website, blog, and Etsy store. Also check out my post from a year about reflecting on Starkey's Tree No. 15.
Due to the diagonal at which the tree's trunk is positioned, and the way its figure is cropped at branch's edges, I cannot help but go back and forth seeing this as both a figure and a landscape.
I see this trunk as a road. A main road, leading into a teeming society. But maybe, instead, it is the rising body of a giant. The gnarled branches zigzag this way and that to allow residents of this commune access to all their preferred nooks and crannies. A tree, like a city or giant, can grow, can thrive, can deteriorate, and die. From a distance we can't see the mother bird who grieves for her fallen chick. Looking up from the base of the tree, we are lost in golden foliage and crooked paths of shadows that read like the most beautiful calligraphy.
After I stared at this image for a while, I started singing some of the lyrics from the song "Henrietta's Hair" by Justin Roberts. It can be found on an album marketed to children, but whenever I hear these words song, I end up caught in a state of deeper contemplation about where I fit in this ridiculous world, my responsibilities to and expectations from others. Here are the excerpts that came to mind:
It's enter if you dare into Henrietta's hair. It's tattered and it's torn, into this life we're born. And there's room enough to share in Henrietta's Hair. Whatever else on earth could it be there for?
It's started to get a little crowded up there in Henrietta's hair. Several of the residents wanted more than their fair share. So this mosquito in a nest said, "I hate to be a pest, but let's not forget to write our moms lots of letters, and that we are merely guests."
Henrietta said, "Come one, come all. It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, or skinny or slimy, or just stuck out on the road. Doesn't matter who you know or what you do, everybody has the right to be tangled up in blue, in this heavenly and horrific hairdo. Just don't forget to take off your shoes.