artist’s statements

Artist’s Statement, 2011

Trees are much more grounded than we are. They throw their roots well down into the uncharted territory of the unconscious, while their trunks and branches rise jubilantly to the heavens.

At our house, we have planted many new young saplings; some bought at considerable expense, some dug up carefully and transplanted… maples, willows, birches, lilacs, evergreens, a peach, an apple, a black gum, and a katsura. Some are spindly and lose limbs during the winter or get bugs during the summer, and others thrive from day one. We love them all. We nurture them and watch them carefully for new growth, make sure they have enough to eat and drink, and a healthy place with enough sun and shade to grow.

Like children, we can admire many from afar, but then want a few to bring home and call our own. And also like children, after early care, they grow, take their own shape and make their own way in the world.

I have been painting trees for about four years now, some from observation, some from memory and some from, what can I say, my soul. I have experimented with various ways to make them mine; color, shapes, intensity, contrast. I don’t plan. I simply start and they emerge. I push them back and they come out in another place, and then after that happens a few times, we meet in a kind of truce between what I think I want to paint and what they seem to want to be.

Mimo Gordon Riley


Artist’s statement, 2009

            Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
– Chinese proverb

With roots deep in the soil and branches reaching for the sky, trees remind me of the Sufi men I saw whirling in Turkey several years ago, one hand pointed up toward heaven and the other down to earth.

As I continue to observe and paint trees, I am reminded of how ever-present they are in my life, every day. Growing up and living in the northeastern US, I am surrounded by trees. Sometimes I see them individually: a magnificent single presence against a clear sky, but as I often do with groups of people, at times I lose sight of the lone tree, focusing more on the crowded room or the forest. This green collective surrounds me, comforts me in my visual landscape any time I open my eyes. I try not to take them for granted.

I love the ubiquitous green that identifies trees, the green that I yearn for in early spring, and am ready to let go of by fall. But when I paint them, I find myself sometimes pushing out from the familiar green into new colors, new ways of seeing.

I am intrigued by the overall shape of leaf over leaf and the light peeking in between them; at times the small pieces of light become more important than the leaves, needles, or fronds themselves, and I’m uncertain whether the true subject of my painting is the tree or the light.

The latest series of trees have brought with them enormous possibilities. I have found working with just 2 colors to be intriguing. I lose myself in the negative/positive shapes, blurring the figure/ground relationship. The pleasure I get painting these images is enhanced when I put 4 together so that the colors play off each other, and my tree obsession becomes even more fully realized!

Mimo Gordon Riley