The image that you’re seeing is the underside canopy of a tree in my grandmother’s front yard—the house where I grew up. As a child and into my early twenties, I watched this tree grow into the beauty that it is today. This image is one that has stayed with me since I first took this picture back in the early two thousands while I was still in high school. What you see today was taken only a few months ago however, but the image has existed many a time before. A flood of emotions and experiences roll through my head as I gaze upon the branches that twist & turn, outline & underline, and support the viridian, almost spherical leaf canopy that casts a shadow to the ground below.
Towards the end of my junior year—I believe—was when I first noticed this spectacle in my own front yard. I never realized that something so beautiful could be in place so close to home. I grew up in Acadiana where a true representation of a patriarchal society is brought forth, and played out through the inhabitants of the land. That means that anything that is artistic, magical, and supernatural—that is, short of what’s going on at the local Pentecostal church—is not recognized as sacred, or worth investing time, money, or passion in.
The image remained a constant in my portfolio, and in my mind; it was a testament to my new found drive to create art through music, light, and word. However, as I said previously, these concepts were not something that could easily survive in the heartlands of Acadiana.
With a pressure being built up around me, I longed to escape the place that contradicted everything that I believed in as a yet to be self recognized artist; With that—after I graduated—I left the small town I’d lived in my whole life, and moved to the northern lands of Acadiana where I settled among seemingly more like minded folks in search of a pedigree.
While in those northern lands, I learned of many things: drugs, parties, the homosexual life style, and black magic. All the while leaving behind my now treasured indoctrination of my youth, and the oppression of the arts.
Spiraling downward, I crashed into the ground, and to my dismay the only option I had from that point on was to head back south: leaving behind my dreams, and unfulfilled destiny to become something more than another product of the South Louisiana lifestyle. I thought this was where I would place my roots, but the all oats that I’d sewn never made through the winter’s first frost.
And so, I found myself under the same canopy that I progressively saw as beautiful, then disdainful, and in my return: regretful. I was broken worse than I was before I left, and I had no effort left to find my place, or begin any repair.
Under the sphere of the canopy, the pressure was back on. I had to resort to a plane B, but there was none. With my new drug rituals, broken relationships, and unthoughtful behavior, I bode my time. I was more alone now that the caravan I originally left with was still north of me. I dove into the spiritual realm, and embraced it through my art. I found myself in a cosmic, super-terrestrial existence where I met the creator of the universe, and the savior of my soul, Christ Jesus.
It was through Him, and his guided tour that the pressure that surrounded me began to cluster around my feet. As the once weakening force prepared me to launch, I turned my eyes to the canopy above. Not sure if this time I would have enough fire and thrust below me to propel me far enough away from Acadiana that there would be no turning back, I became swallowed by the fear that I would fail.
Gripping to my Savior—that he would ensure my lift off—the engines ignited. Pushing through layers of branches, regrets, wasp’s nest, and finally leaves, I punctured the top layer, and I found myself relieved of the gravity that once held me to the ground as viridian leaves, sparks, and glittering dust softly trailed behind me. I safely landed in the northern suburbs of a densely populated metropolitan area, and my roots took to the topsoil.
In my last voyage to my native land of Acadian, I walked back to the tree that was once an expression of my pain and difference. I peered under the canopy in the bright spring sun, and took this image with my H.A.L. 2010 device. To the naked eye the image is still as astounding as it once was, and even so with two million pixels less than when it was first recorded.
It’s not about the context in which the photograph was taken, but what is represented by the image itself. What once was a barrier in which had to be broken through, has now finally become what it was originally intended to be: part of my portfolio. Only this time, I know why.