“Tree Hugger” shows an abstracted skeletal figure merging with the top of a pine tree that is radiating light. The term “tree hugger ” is often used negatively by the political right to refer to someone who is an environmental activist. It can also be understood as a loving embrace of nature. I wanted to reclaim this term to depict the positive relationship to nature. Here, I hoped the figure would become almost saint-like. The painting walks a line between political, spiritual, and romantic ideas.
In making this work (and others in the exhibition), I cut wood forms and printed them on the silk, creating a variety of surfaces, forms, and hard and soft edges. If you look carefully, you will see that sections of the frame are painted, in order to create more depth behind the silk. I wanted light to travel through the thin washes of paint and bounce back to the eyes of the viewer. Other moments in the painting show a heavier build-up of sand and glass, both reflecting light. The painting should be dynamic, shifting as the viewer walks around it.
— Michael Markwick