Field-trip day! I’m going to take a break from talking about words, and instead talk about being forcibly made to work without words. Here are the photos of the sculpture piece I made at Proskuneo Worship Institute this summer. I call it my “Grieving Tree”.
The entire story behind this sculpture is really personal, but I’ll share a few of the details.
First and foremost, I tend to self-identify as a tree. I’m all about the rush of new growth and go go go and excitement and thrills, so when a close friend of the family died unexpectedly last fall, I was stunned. Crushed. And didn’t know how to grieve. I’d never had anyone that close pass away, and watching how it affected those around me just made the process that much harder. As months passed, I found myself ignoring sadness or channeling it into anger. In my mind, anger was so much more productive than sadness, but there wasn’t anyone to be angry at, so it all just got stuck.
By the time I got to PWI I was really stuck. My health was in a tailspin for other reasons, but had been aggravated by constant bouts with intense sadness. Sadness that kept popping up in the oddest of places, and sadness that I wouldn’t acknowledge, or allow to last for more than a few seconds “because people don’t like being around someone who cries.”
While working with my artistic mentor on preliminary ideas for the tree, the fallacy of that last statement really hit home. Originally I was just going to craft a tree that stood upright – hollow but steady – and had metal leaves to illustrate grief. (Metal being sometimes associated with endings and grieving and reflecting.) But after a lot of prayer and firm direction from God, we found that my big fear was that if I let the grief out, I’d get uprooted by the sheer amounts of it and would be swept away.
So I modified the design to a hollow tree, laying on its side, with just a few roots that reached down and wrapped around something solid. After some more prayerful consideration and thought, I realized this was also a metamorphosis of sorts. A peeling away of my rough outer protective bark so little springy me could pop up from the old stump.
The sculpture itself took me two weeks to craft from cardboard, model magic, foam, wire, paint, and the lovely wooden box my grandfather made for me. It’s full of little details that mean a lot to me. Even the inside of the tree is coated in a page from a book that I used to hide my thoughts in. There was something in me that needed an extra layer of safety – printed words to hide my written ones. The rock says a word in Korean that seeks God’s presence, and that word is on the back of the rock so that I can’t always see it, but I know it’s there.
Aside from novel writing, this is probably the only art piece I have spent so much time and thought on, or made so very personal. All in all, it was a difficult, weighty, painful business. But worthwhile. I now have a tangible reminder to grieve, and a whole flock of memories to go with it.