Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Tree Within / Árbol Adentro - A Byzantine Mosaic In Honor of Octavio Paz

A Tree Within / Árbol Adentro
Byzantine Glass Mosaic by Leticia Alaniz © 2018
A pattern of design made from thousands of tiny brilliant cut glass, stone, shells, gold, or ceramic pieces has been the subject of awe and admiration in many cultures.  The physical presence of a mosaic mural has been since time immemorial a system of pictures to tell stories and convey histories.  It has been the art of eternity which explores vibrant, colorful and energetic pasts.  

Among the many design elements is the tree of life.  It’s a concept that symbolizes the beginning of life and the origin of everything.  For thousands of years in almost all cultures, religions, mythologies, and philosophies, the tree has been an icon and a theme that we encounter in daily life.  As a sacred symbol, it has mystified and has been the subject of celebration of deities and is a direct link to the divine and the mythical cosmologies.  

The tree has roots that reach deeply into the depths which take nourishment from Mother Earth and thru its upward reaching branches it absorbs light from the sun.  A tree symbolizes generations of families that grow and create new fruit to begin a new generation.  Trees have a cycle of life that regenerate with the seasons making it a symbol of immortality, rebirth and the duality of life and death.  The grandness of a tree connects all forms of creation, heaven, the underworld, and knowledge that resides in our past, present, and future.

In his poem Árbol Adentro / A Tree Within, Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz created a metaphysical metaphor of an inverted tree which grows within his body. With its canopy and leaves up in his head, the words depict an illustration of desire inspired by the beauty and presence of a woman.  The poem establishes that “Its roots are veins…”  The branches stretch out into the inner depths of his nerves and the body’s extremities, “Thoughts are its tangled foliage…”  The poet describes an escalating passion that ends with a metaphorical touch “Whose glance sets it on fire…” provoking the love and the other person’s presence to be inflamed with desire.  The themes of the tree suggest a sexual encounter with the pomegranate seeds in reference to a man’s seed, “Day Breaks / In the body’s night…”  Its an acknowledgment of his need for the love of the woman.  In the final lines, the poem entices the other to come closer and, “Hear the tree speak.”

Mexican Poet Octavio Paz
There is no doubt that Octavio Paz left his mark on the world of poetry and is a force to be reckoned with.  Just the same, his poetry has greatly influenced me in the creation of my own art, photography, and writings.  As an homage to his poem Árbol Adentro / A Tree Within, I created this mosaic tree in Mexican and Venetian smalti tesserae glass in the tradition of the ancient Byzantine art.  With branches of pure gold smalti tesserae and cobalt blue representing a life cycle.  Red as a symbol of blood and earth reaching up to the trunk and the branches feeding life to the tree giving it a sense of timelessness and eternal life.  
Filmmaker & Artist Leticia Alaniz
© 2018
Mexican Huipil Crafted & Designed by Poet Natalia Toledo
A Tree Within

A tree grew inside my head.
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins,
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangled foliage
Your glance sets it on fire,
and its fruits of shade
are blood oranges
and pomegranates of flame.

Day breaks

in the body's night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.

Come closer - can you hear it?

Octavio Paz

© Leticia Alaniz 2018
All Rights Reserved


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  5. Hello, Leticia. I offer you another translation:

    ‘Twixt my temples grew a tree;
    Inwardly grew it.
    Veins are its roots,
    sinews its boughts,
    grim foliage its thoughts.
    Thy sight scorches it.
    Its shadowy kernels
    are bloody oranges,
    are fiery pomegranates.
    In my bodily night
    comes the morningtide.
    Within my brow
    utters the tree.
    Come neere.
    Do you hearken it?