Substance of Redemption

by Edward Traub

I painted "Substance of Redemption" (see below) years ago, I would say sometime between 1998 and 2001, my father-in-law, Jim, and I were hired to do a unique project near Hamlin Lake (Ludington, MI). We were going to plant trees!

I don't recall what type of trees, and I don't know how the plot of land was cleared before hand. However, we planted saplings around which we wrapped translucent plastic tubes to aid in the gathering of sunlight and in order to protect the little trees from the deer.

Looking back now it may have been some of the most fascinating work I've had the privilege of doing (it tapped into what would eventually become my future agrarian interests as well). The site was secluded not far from a bridge Jim and I would later replace connecting two two-track "roads" for Hamlin's seasonal residents. [as an aside, that bridge project was where we were when the 911 attacks took place] However, our tree-planting work was meant to bring vitality back to a bare piece of land. To this day, and perhaps in part because of 911, that time, that work, and that place linger as a place of rejuvenating, concrete practice.

But the painting is also part of that story and that place. While we were working, I noticed another mature tree in the corner of the plot. A walnut, I think. It had the most unusually distorted form. It wasn't straight, but instead had what was a 90 degree jog from which it then went straight up into the canopy. The tree wasn't a runt, it seemed to be thriving, but it was not typical.

I decided to take my sketchbook to the site the next day and did some drawings during breaks in our work (Jim was always supportive of my artistic pursuits). What emerged was this painting. Further still, what I realized was what I think happened to that tree sometime in its history.

That walnut was wounded. It had been struck down or fallen upon by another tree. It may have been struck by lightening. Who knows for sure. It occurred me that the tree had overcome what, for some trees would have been a fatal blow, but it somehow grew back up and looked just fine other than the obvious "jog" in its form. Although abstract in color and feel, what is depicted in the painting is true to the form and dimension of the actual tree.

It is a symbol of redemption.