The Mother Tree

Kaethe Kauffman, The Mother Tree, 24”x16”, Ink, 2023

The top half of the drawing, The Mother Tree, depicts an expansive tree that spreads beyond the picture plane. Autumn colors bless her leaves. When I contemplate this drawing, I can see several possible interpretations of the drawing’s meaning.

 The large tree appears steadfast. In the lower half of the drawing, four small trees blow in the wind. They could be her children, gathered around her and caught by tempestuous weather. She might be sheltering them or offering stability in a turbulent world. 

This vision is my interpretation of what a mother should be. It is a wish of what I wanted my mother to be: nurturing during difficult times. Although my Mom wasn’t stable, I can see in this drawing that I still long for a devoted mother.

I can’t be objective about what kind of mother I was to my son. I tried to be a loving and stable force for him during his childhood, like the large tree in this drawing.

No matter how the mother archetype played out in my life, it remains powerful and evocative in my internal world. Perhaps the ideal mother is a spiritual essence of positivity that we perceive in meditation or prayer: Kuan Yin, Mother Mary, or Demeter. The small trees may represent my various struggles, but always with a divine source nearby. I like this interpretation best of all.

The Mother Tree is featured in Kauffman’s new solo exhibit of ink drawings at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in New York. The exhibit includes 25 new drawings and is called: Trees Glorious Trees. The show runs from November 9, 2023 to January 3, 2024 and can be seen in its entirety after here: Virtual Art Exhibition