“Valori Fussell is very articulate, quick and able to communicate complex ideas spontaneously and clearly. She is the kind of artist who easily teaches out of experience. She is persuasive because she speaks with a broad background in the arts and the studio experience to make that authentic. She knows a lot "about" art and how to do it.”
Interpreting Works of Art
Trees, infants and cocoons have been presenting themselves through my subconscious during the 2020 pandemic.
The Family Tree and Baby in a Tree each combine two of these motifs. In The Family Tree the infant is out on high on a limb supported by spiny branches somewhat like a bed of nails. Even though suspended between the warring parents on a deadened tree in a barren land, the innocent infant gazes outward from the picture plane with hope.
In the small painting of Baby in a Tree the infant is emerging from a cocoon. It is surrounded by thorns which have protected it during the vulnerable transformation from chrysalis to birth. Although the thorns represent grief and sorrow, they metamorphose into antler shapes which are a call to renewal. Just as the baby is in emergence, so too are the ideas of hope and regeneration.
Although at first glance these two paintings may seem dark and brooding, they are in fact paintings of emergence into light. The shedding of poor nurture, the release from history and the opening to the true nature of the incarnate soul.
The Family Tree
Oil on Linen 18 x 24"
The Family Tree grew out of a concept that some beings are born onto a bed of nails. In the year prior to the painting I’d come across a photo of a baby on a tiny mattress. On seeing it I knew the inevitable suffering that lay ahead for this infant and began to sketch it on the bed of nails. But the idea remained dormant until the Family Tree arose.
I had done a meaningful and simple sketch of my father in his illness. It had recently resurfaced and nailed to my studio wall it was constantly in my peripheral vision while I worked.
A barren tree, windblown and weathered, leaning into nothingness lifted into my consciousness. I’d seen the lifeless, rootless, unyielding tree in my mind many times. The US had just landed on Mars.
The screaming and agonized, beaten and angry mother in the Medusa spun into the composition.
These five elements assembled themselves on their own, in my mind while driving one day. I came to my studio and painted it. The bleak landscape without movement or landmark of any kind, endlessly void. Then the three figures: The disembodied, screaming Medusa mother figure; The colorless, angry head of the father figure; The innocent baby out on a precarious limb trapped between the dysfunctional adults in a barren, unwelcoming world.
Baby in a Tree
Oil on Panel 7 x 5"
There is a painting by a 15th century early Netherlandish painter named Petrus Christus. When I first saw it in Madrid many years ago it captivated me. It is petite (c. 6x5”), pristine and it is precise. I’ve never been able to forget it in 20 years. As a gesture of acknowledgement finally, an homage to the presence of this powerful little painting I decided to paint something of my own within its aura.
Petrus’ image is titled The Virgin of the Dry Tree - a full figure Madonna standing in the crook of a spreading and haloing branch of thorns. In my painting, the Madonna has become a baby swaddled cocoon-like, head emerging, turned and gagged.
Prior to painting my homage, the chrysalis figure had been presenting itself frequently through my subconscious. This motif initially emerged at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic in the form of a woman wrapped also as if in a cocoon. This covering is spun to protect the pupal, transformative stage of larvae. In this case, the larva is human.
Placed amongst the protective thorns, the baby has survived its most vulnerable transitional stage and is emerging as in birth. At this moment, the thorns which symbolize both grief and affliction metamorphose into a symbol of renewal and regeneration as they become more like antlers.