August 27, 2013


        I like roots.  When I was a child I made the acquaintance of an enormous pine tree that grew right on the edge of a steep slope, almost a low cliff.  Erosion had left a huge swirl of roots exposed on the cliff side, and I could climb among them.  There were a couple of good seats, and in front of one seat in particular there was another root placed like a control panel and adorned with chunky bark for buttons and little twigs for levers.  It was my helicopter tree.  Among the roots of other trees I made elaborate fairy houses.  As for smaller plants, I've certainly hated the roots of a few sumacs, dandelions, and bindweeds in my day, but the idea of roots, the metaphor of pushing down into the earth, or into the past, or into the divine, the better to reach out with strength and generosity to the world around… this is an idea that resonates with me.  So when I carved the image of a tree with roots it's partly about the way it looked, but it's also about that whole host of associations and metaphors.

        Needless to say, I'm not the only one who likes the look and the idea of roots, so here's a collection of block prints showing roots.  I've tried to pick a bit of variety… the roots above ground and below, the roots of small plants and huge trees, roots in detailed engravings and in rough lino prints…  And as usual when I put together a collection, I enjoy comparing the different choices different artists have made.
        We start with Polinsky's familiar edible roots - yum!  It's easy to forget that these ordinary veggies are roots, too.
        In these three depictions of full grown trees with their roots we get three very different concepts.  Noble's is a very traditional woodcut: traditional in the style of lines and textures, traditional in composition and subject, and traditional in the incredible level of technical expertise and skill.  Schmidt's version, rather than look
realistic like Noble's, has an interesting geometric design as the texture of the underground soil.  And Schalliol-Hodge has taken the roots idea a little surreal with her juxtaposition of the trees growing above the factory chimneys as if the smoke became roots.

        Of course a tree isn't big instantly, and one of the other lovely associations with roots is seeds and how they start putting out their roots down in the dark soil, silently.  To celebrate that I give you Dirolf's accurately detailed, downright botanical image.

        The final one is probably my favorite, just a straightforward representation of the part of the roots you actually see every day - but such lovely shadows and textures!  I hope you find a favorite or two among these block prints, and that you remember to appreciate your roots!

[Pictures: Holding On, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010;
Garden Roots, linocut by Haley Polinsky (Image from her Etsy shop HaleyPolinsky);
Old Oak Tree Roots, woodcut by Steve Noble (Image from his web site);
Strong Roots, linocut by Mike Schmidt (Image from his Etsy shop mikeschmidt);
Growth, linocut by Sara Schalliol-Hodge (Image from her Etsy shop saraschalliol);
Maple Seedling, woodcut by George Dirolf (Image from Oakroom Artists Gallery);
Tree Roots, woodcut by Donna Ibing (Image from Hamilton Arts & Letters).]


Gwen Buchanan said...

Anne, You truly have created a wonderful blog. I love coming here, reading your thoughts and research and seeing details of black and white. Thank you for sharing.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Gwen, I'm so glad you enjoy my blog. And thanks for letting me know -- otherwise it can seem like everything disappears into the on-line ether!

Unknown said...

Hi Anne, Could I use your image in my book? It would be very small, on a page with a quote about a tree on a rocky crag. I think the one I mean is called "Holding On."

Unknown said...

You could email me directly at lara at zmessage dot com. I don't know where I would get a reply to this comment post. Thanks, Lara