Sunday, November 22, 2015

"There Is A Tree" by Marti Richtmyer Nash

I recently discovered this gem of a picture book at a local nature center. It was published in 2007 and is illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts by Vermont printmaker Marti Richtmyer Nash.

The literal story is simply the sights and musings of a solitary, little boy exploring the great outdoors. As there is no strong narrative, it is really much more a series of beautiful fine art prints, enriched by light prose. 

What grabbed me the most about this book was the constantly changing perspectives in the imagery. For example, in two of the images we see the boy's shorts, legs, and feet, once from the perspective of someone standing on the ground looking up at him, then again from the boy's own point of view, looking down.

The tree of the title, and where the boy sits perched, is essential to the perspective. Because he is looking down or up or across from an already elevated position, and from a branch that itself might sway under the boy's weight and movements, it becomes difficult to work out the gravitational pull or light source in many of the images. All together I read them as flashes of almost overwhelming layers of moving texture. I could feel the breeze and the flicker of sunlight as it was refracted through the passing clouds.

At the end the boy comes down from the tree, the sun sets, and the artist offers a couple views of the green land under a beautiful, yet massive and somewhat turbulent sky. I feel the boy's esteem for nature's grandeur, and because I am once against seeing him from a distance, I feel a deeper sense of my own humility and awe.

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