I was first introduced to the idea of the yellow leaf on a kayaking trip off the shores of Key West. It was the first year after my divorce and I was pretty low ,so my brother and his family had me join them for their family vacation. On a previous kayaking tour through the mangrove forest that my brother had taken years before the tour guide had told him a story, In an attempt to remember how the story went he kept repeating the term "suicide leaf". Normally I think of my brother as a very funny person and I am without doubt that this story was meant to entertain.
In the 20 years that was my marriage my brother and I saw very little of each other, though as kids we had been close. He had no way of knowing that my kid had been previously suicidal.
My stomach would tighten and my throat would close every time he used the word.
Once we were on the water he asked our guide to tell us about the "suicide leaf", but our guide had no clue what my brother was talking about. As the day and my brother's grumbling went on our laughter and teasing increased. Something that was said must have been recognized by the guide because he started laughing too and asked my brother "Do you mean the "sacrificial leaf"? I breathed a sigh of relief, beacause somehow in my mind sacrificial was way better than suicidal.
shoutout to Mohmed Nazeeh for the cool image.
AND SO THE STORY GOES...
Mangroves are the only trees that are capable of thriving in saltwater. You see these freshwater plants have a crazy filtration system that sends the salt from the ocean to one leaf.
The salt causes the leaf to turn yellow before it falls off and another leaf takes its place. Their root systems are also vital for protecting the coastline from erosion due to storms and floods, which I think is cool. You can learn more about the mangroves for yourself if you like
shoutout to Timothy K for this cool image
I am always searching for symbolism that helps to tell or enhances a story of my experience to use in my art. My art, after all, is the story of my experiences and how they affect me. I use art to process and make sense of a world I don't often feel that I belong in.
THE SACRIFICIAL LEAF MAKES AN APPEARANCE...
"From Every Direction"
The yellow leaf first showed up in my work during a time when my adopted child was trying to make sense of the ugly divorce my husband and I were going through and also figure out where they fit into the world. It was also during this time that both of their biological parents made a brief appearance in their life, adults each with their own independent lives and agendas with little to no consideration as to what was best for the child. The timing could not have been worse. As my influence in their life decrreased, I found myself making sacrifices to compensate for the lack of parenting time I had to spend with them. This four-paneled encaustic painting was created to represent the four adults who were responsible for bringing this child into the world, as well as the lack of responsibility taken to care and nurture this small human. The energy of the lines reflects the anger I was feeling toward the biological parents and my ex-husband. The yellow leaf came to represent me and the emotional and financial sacrifices I was making to keep their world as normal as possible.
"Other Peoples Secrets", "Get in The Life Boat" & "Exit Stage Right"
From there I went on to create a "Comfort" line of throw pillows incorporating the yellow leaf. I think I was the one needing comfort at the time and it gave me something to focus on and for my hands to do while I worked part-time as a nanny. "Other Peoples Secrets", "Get in the Life Boat" and "Exit Stage Right" is part of a limited series I created where the yellow leaf became as much a part of the story as the other elements. You can see the other pillows from this series and their description on the shop page of my website
The yellow leaf of sacrifice then made its way into the work titled "Energy", This piece was created as a reflection of the life force or energy that we absorb from other sources like people as well as our environment. For myself when I need to recharge or when I feel ungrounded I turn to nature. I want to be the person who has compassion, time and energy to give and support those I care about. In order to do that so that I'm not making unnecessary and damaging sacrifices to myself I need to ensure my own needs and cup of energy is full. The yellow leaf in this piece serves as a reminder to myself that it is not necessary or healthy for me to continue to put myself last in all situations.