The Oak and the Cypress

October 5, 2017

The Oak and the Cypress, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 48 x 36

The Oak and the Cypress, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 48 x 36

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

The seeds of this painting were planted when Mia asked me to paint her some cypress trees one day, because they remind her of Italy. This painting began its life as a fairly straightforward, but boring, depiction of cypress and oak. I tried a few adjustments, but the painting needed a bigger leap, something less expected.
In researching oaks and cypress, I came across images of an illustrated manuscript from 14th century Persia. I used the original layout, more or less, including the primitive style and spatial depiction. The story concerns a prince who goes off in search of a princess with whom he’s fallen in love. In the style of an epic, he encounters many adventures, including one where the princess in question, while in disguise, challenges him to a duel. He has no idea that he’s battling his love until he wins the duel, and she reveals her identity. The quote contained within the painting is the exact caption that is displayed (in Farsi) on the original manuscript:

Defeated she removes her helmet before making up the quarrel”.

Something about this moment affected me: the choice to be vulnerable, put aside whatever argument you’ve had, and take the first step to be friends again.

The title comes from a line from the Kahlil Gibran poem, “On Marriage”.

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