Four art pieces with connections to trees are currently displayed in the sky lit foyer on the gallery floor of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Each sculpture is very different. Root Dress by Barb Hunt is at the top of the stairs and draws the immediate attention of visitors. A group of high school girls on one of my tours discussed how they thought the dress symbolizes the way women are the backbone and roots of their families holding things together.
Daphne is by Jean Arp. Most of my touring students don’t know Daphne’s story and they are intrigued by the dramatic tale from Greek mythology of the beautiful Daphne who was being pursued by the god Apollo. Her father Laden was a river god and she begged him to help save her from Apollo. He did so by turning her into a tree.
The Poet by Ossip Zadkine is a musician who is half tree and half person. Children have fun picking out all the tree parts on one half of the sculpture- the branches for his arms, the roots for his foot, the growth rings inside his thigh, the writing etched into the bark on his leg, the pruned branch on his calf and the leaves on his hands. The kids on my tours have pointed out lots of tree details I hadn’t noticed.
Tree of Life is by Cecil Richards. I tell the students who visit the gallery that many religions have a Tree of Life as a symbol for creation. Inevitably a child on the tour will suggest that the couple inside the tree is Adam and Eve and they share the Biblical story with us. I tell the kids that in Ancient Egypt there was also a religious story about a couple named Isis and Osiris who emerged from a tree.
The presence and proximity of these tree pieces has made for an interesting addition to my tours and has inspired lots of comments and ideas from the children and young people who visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
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