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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Powerful Hand of the Tree of Life

Mano Poderosa del Árbol de la Vida por Tanya Torres
Powerful Hand of the Tree of Life by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.

I don't think I ever noticed a Mano Poderosa icon before visiting El Museo del Barrio some time after arriving in New york City in 1985. Like many other religious images, it seems for be popular depending on the region and the tendencies of the people who live there. It is in fact the type of Cristian icon that has become syncretized with the African and Indigenous religions of America. That is probably why I never saw it before.
My grandmother, the only person to take charge of my spiritual upbringing, was "católica, apostólica y romana" (catholic, apostolic and Roman), and I am sure I heard her say these words literally at some point.

But last year, as I was creating the series of drawings that became the seeds for these paintings, a tree began taking the shape of a hand, which I went on to identify as a reinterpretation of the popular Mano Poderosa icon with pantheistic tendencies. It is a tree between Heaven and Earth, extending its long, hopeful fingers to God.

For the Tree of Life, which is part of pretty much every world religion, I appropriate one of Wikipedia's definitions: "a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life on our planet." For me it translates into a vision of sprouting leaves and grass, knots and twirls like those I saw some years back in Sedona, Arizona, where the energies of the land cause the trees to spiral as they try to reach their own heaven.

Like the Sacred Heart of the Earth, this tree is embraced by Heaven and sustained by the Earth. It's hand reaches up, but its roots are well planted into the material reality that provides nourishment and grounding. Much like I see the spiritual path: a series of lessons involving the material realm that guide immaterial pursuits.

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