I live in California where there has been a long drought. The inspiration for this painting came when I was driving on the highway and saw a sign that said “Save Water.” I thought of Native Americans calling the rain by singing and playing music. The watering can is an old one I have from France. The fairy is dreaming. She invented a musical instrument. When she sings and plays music, fish and other aquatic life arrive. The small fish kisses her. There are snails and two plants—one is dry, dead, while the cherry branch has pretty flowers and fruit. There is an orange and an octopus--an intelligent animal--who touches the fairy. The fairy attracts fish, a seagull, and animals. My wife Marilyn and my dog Babette are the models. The mirror reflects an image of Egypt where there is water from the Nile. The raindrops are real gold. The first drop of rain that falls into the little vase is sacred.
I have a French friend, June, who does research for a NASA project in the U.S. This painting is about an experiment she was working on using fertilized eggs to study weightlessness. I transformed the experiment in the painting, recreating a story of a spaceship where an astronaut comes to visit the experiment with chicks. The insects are workers who work in the spaceship. A human mind manages the whole operation. A robot with many arms repairs the motor and participates in the experiment. This painting shows the extraordinary creative power of human beings where the human brain is continually searching. Humans are excluded from this experiment. They are outside.
This painting came from a marvelous vision I had one day at Jenner, Ca. where the Russian River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The image of the lighthouse came from the one at Pigeon Point. A vision flashed before me of fire, the immensity of the ocean, and the story of a young girl who, with the help of her dog and guidance of a serpent, saves her sheep from the fire. An ant saving its egg follows the girl. The fantastical trees are the trees of paradise.
I often paint images of women. The woman in The Tree of Life gives birth, soothes the sorrows of the world, and reaches her hands to those who are lost in the black tunnels of the world to guide them toward a new spring. The painting represents the gestation of a new Adam who will give new meaning to the world. He is so radiant that his light transforms all around him, lighting up their souls. The heart of the world is in this tree. The leaden weight held by the baby symbolizes the verticality of humanity. The candles floating on the world’s sea announce the arrival of happiness, which always slips between our fingers and cannot be held for long, like a slippery fish. The woman’s face is that of life and death, because we are only exiles on this earth. The large claw protects the secrets of the world that no one—except the baby---can access.
This painting was inspired by three events. The first was seeing a large burned area in Lassen National Park, a volcanic region of California. To see the earth all burned black and gray made a big impression on me. Another event was a near-death experience a friend described to me of going through the tunnel of light. The third event was the first time I saw a forest of enormous redwood trees in California, which made a big impression on me, as I had never before seen trees that large. The story of the painting centers on a person who passes through the tunnel of light into the other world. The large head represents Mother Earth. The butterflies attached to two people and the bird attached to the young person symbolize their souls. The butterfly of the person passing into the tunnel is detached from his body so that he can pass into the other world, while the large insect on the ladder prevents him from returning. The other insects care for the people during their last moments on earth. The claws on the roots of the fallen redwood will trap the three people; they will lose their butterflies; and then they must climb the ladder. Behind the fire, the other world is the destination.
There is an expression in France called “Tourner Autour du Seau.” This is what people do when they are having trouble making a decision. They turn things around in their heads. The two birds going around the bucket represent choices. The monkey is playing a drum on a can of mushrooms from Paris. There is a beautiful flower. It is best to make decisions when things are calm, with beauty and music. The knife represents a bad decision, an impulsive decision. The true way is in the center—where the fish is. Decisions are not black or white. The decision is in the middle with the fish. The fish follows the butterfly. Follow the butterfly.