One Tree, A Thousand Faces, A Million Stories
Categories: art, landscape, nature


A Reflection on the Kathy Hirshon Exhibit, ‘Spirited Trees’

At The Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford, Connecticut

October, 2009- January 1, 2010

Unlike the other seasons, autumn takes its time in arriving. Almost overnight, spring seems to pop into bloom after the yellow crocus peeks out from under the frost. Summer rushes in, never allowing enough time to fully embrace its warmth and extra long days. Inevitably, winter arrives, as it always must, with a biting wind, and then lingers much too long.

But autumn creeps in on silent paws. Its colors unfolding ever so slowly, shifting from deep greens to flaming, brilliant hues of red, orange and yellow; before the transition to russet, tawny brown and umber signals the end of the season’s long goodbye.

Tree face 758 Trees seem to animate on the grounds of the Bartlett Arboretum
Kathy Hirshon’s exhibit, Spirited Trees, opened in early October at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Connecticut, just as nature cast its splendid veil of color over the New England landscape. Each work shown was a journey to deeper self-discovery for the artist; but more importantly, a celebration of life’s renewal through art and the natural world.

The Bartlett Arboretum has long supported the work of artists, with its annual plein air auction and gallery exhibitions. This year, artist, Kathy Hirshon, was asked to present a one-woman show featuring a group of works inspired by the arboretum setting, itself.Hirshon responded to the Bartlett’s landscape–the trees and surrounding acreage–but also to the people she saw there. As she reflected on her show, she mused, “This work belongs to everyone, I felt honored to share this message of hope through the Arboretum; a place that understands the science of trees, how to tend to them and how to nurture growth.”

quartyp 699 4-panel group, ‘Storytelling’, pigmented wood
Entering the Bartlett foyer, a collection of small (2-1/2” x 3-1/2”) traditional watercolor and ink paintings grace the walls. They are mostly monochromatic: earthy browns, beiges, taupes, grays, and greens. These smaller pieces should be examined closely so not to miss the dancing, swaying limbs, the skeletal structure of the trees, and the apparent joy in each brushstroke.
close up2494 ‘Tending’, 12″ x 24″ pigmented wood panel
Inspired by the Bartlett’s pollarded groves and spectacular Eastern red cedars, London plane trees, and weeping Norway spruces, Hirshon weaves universally-inspired stories, myths, and fairytales into her works. “Our stories”, she says, “should be preserved and disseminated to future generations as part of our collective history.”

There is a complexity in composition and meaning in Hershon’s works, much like the woodland trails of the Arboretum, themselves. Using various mediums–gold-leaf foil, silk, suede, and linen burlap–she offers a new visual dimension that seems to mimic nature itself. There are intricate wood carvings whose porous surfaces absorb earthy wood stains and subtle streaks of greens, blues and reds, enhancing the material’s naturally-occurring rings and knots. From this melding of color and form, spirited and often quizzical faces begin to emerge. The countenances borne of the swirls of grain seem rounded, elfin and cherubic, creating a sense of calm and peace in an enchanted forest; and some with eyes closed appear to capture a moment of dreaming. One panel for example, was rendered by Hirshon as gentle and unobtrusive, as if to soothe a child whose delicate spirit might be afraid of the dark.

Each piece is named to represent the paths that she, as an artist and, in her view, everyone walks: Receiving, Arriving, Being, Learning, Tending, Thinking, Creating, Holding, and Listening–tales of life and living. “We must realize that society is an ecosystem that relies on the past to define its future. We are a community. My last panel, Listening, at once represents our channel to nature and to ourselves,” she points out. As Hirshon considered her body of work, she recalled what Confucius said: ‘The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.’ “We are all connected;” she points out, “our fate and the fate of the trees are one.”

by Michelina Docimo, Contributing Writer

This post was originally published for Artes Magazine:

all photographs by the author

Printmaker, Michael Van der Linden of Stamford will be creating a limited edition series of the title pieces, along with selected other works from this show. These 12”x 24” images will be printed on archival watercolor paper with a porcelain surface using archival ink. They are priced at $150/each. Inquiries should be directed to the Bartlett Arboretum at or to the artist, Kathy Hirshon, at


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