When Wendy Patterson was laid up recovering from surgery, she spent a lot of time looking out her window observing trees. She lives deep in the woods in Gray, and has many trees to consider.
First, she began drawing them and then began studying them and reading about them, and now has produced a series of works related to that exploration, “Trees and Dancers,” on view in the Stonewall Gallery at Yarmouth Historical Society through June 30. The series is a continuation of her exploration of the human form in “The Twenty,” a body of work about the shootings at Sandy Hook, and “The Twenty – A Dance,” a collaboration with the choreographer Betsy Dunphy and composer Barbara Truex.
In the new work, made with mostly with drawings on paper and printed material embedded in wax, Patterson considers the similarities between trees and dancers, and imbues her images with subtle messages about community, strength and endurance. Some of her trees suggests the human female form, others are represented as ancestors.
Trees are rooted in place, even while in movement. Dancers are in movement, even in stillness. “Trees and dancers are both rooted in form and movement,” she said.
Her paintings are abstract and colorful, and leave room for viewers to bring their own perspective. Patterson’s messages are subtle. She addresses family separation at the border with images of rhythmic, redundant figures. Other paintings are tree-less, suggesting a barren desert. She pays tribute to the wisdom of indigenous people and their strength, and honors the resilience of trees to regenerate and help each other through a community of shared roots.
“We can learn from the trees what it means to be a community, to nourish each other to support each other and to help each other. We see the trees as not separate from us, but related,” she said. “We’re all part of the mystery. We’re not just setting on the edge eating a picnic.”
‘Trees & Dancers’ by Wendy Newbold Patterson
WHERE: Yarmouth Historical Society, 118 E. Elm St., Yarmouth
WHEN: On view through June 30; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
INFORMATION: yarmouthmehistory.org or (207) 846-6259