Spirit Trees

Recently, I invited Laura Grisamore into my art classroom as a guest speaker.  Laura is a photographer/photojournalist that does some incredible work.  She’s vibrant, engaging, and sucks you into her infectious personality.

During the course of her presentation, she showed a photograph of a tree that she called her “Spirit Tree.” It is a tree that catches her eye and she talked how she thought she needed to capture it with the right sky conditions and finally one bleak day, she finally did, much to her satisfaction.  When she mentioned where it was, I knew the tree.  It stands strong and alone.

I mentioned that I had adopted a tree as my inspiration for some recent work.  I’ve painted, drawn, painted again and even used seeds for a crop art entry into the State Fair.  It is well known to many of the locals, as it also catches your eye as you travel by it.  It too stands alone, separated from its kin some few hundred yards away.  Some folks have different names for it, but the “Spirit Tree” moniker seems to be fitting.

White Pine – Spirit Tree

When Laura mentioned the Spirit Tree, it reminded me of another artist friend of mine, Ti Besonen, who shared her experiences during a workshop with Hazel Belvo, a painter who often depicts a well known, but protected tree near Grand Marais, called the Spirit Tree.  As Ti relayed some of her experiences, I researched Hazel’s work and lo and behold an etching of the Spirit Tree came across my screen that I found to be striking in its similarities of the shape and form of a block print I had done back in the mid 90’s while still an undergrad at BSU (Bemidji State University).

In my print, I had embodied a figure in a tree, as myself, without roots because I would be moving again once I finished my degree at BSU.  The print was for a print portfolio exchange titled “Women’s Self-Image” and at the time, having no roots to ground myself represented what my life had been up to that point.  (I’ve been a bit more grounded and have not moved for 21 years, but things change, right?)

What’s fascinating is how Laura’s work, takes the two living things and embodies then into her Photo Fusions.  Maybe it’s the constant exposure to Mother Nature that we start to absorb its grace and generosity.  I’ve been drawing trees since time began I think and have always been connected to them a bit more than even the typical tree hugger would.  I cried when they took down a 60-year-old healthy Elm when they did the water and sewer project that required the city to turn the once lush boulevard into a barren wasteland.  I was glad I wasn’t home when they made the cuts to the stately structure.  It would have been like watching an execution.

The top part of my Spirit Tree is dying, and I imagine within a few years it will crumble and I will feel heartbroken when that happens.  Maybe that’s why I’ve adopted the noble white pine that stands along Highway 71 as my artistic muse – it’s spirit needs to live on.  I will be honored to take on that responsibility.



Both Laura and Ti have blogs and links to their work can be found under the links.


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