The Air That I Breathe - 2010

The Air That I Breathe

- Future Studio Gallery 2010
Artist Statement

Most of my early life was spent in places where nature was abundant. The trees and plants of suburban Philadelphia and the deep and mysterious forests of rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania were where I grew up. I attended private Catholic schools. From the beginning of my early life, there seems to have been conflicting belief systems or mythologies taught to me that I was probably only aware of on a subconscious level. Climbing trees or walking through the woods, nature was all around me whispering its ideas about the creation of life. When I went to school, the nuns and priests were teaching me their beliefs about God and Jesus and where we all came from. Looking back now I can see the genesis for the things in life that now intrigue me and inspire my art.

There are many things that I remember about my Catholic upbringing but some stick out more than others. One of the church’s beliefs that really stuck in my head, and has replayed itself over and over like a catchy little pop song was this: “God created us in his own image…God created us in his own image…”

But, what if you don’t believe in a white-bearded God in the sky anymore? What if you believe that humans rose up from the primordial ooze? That we evolved from tiny splitting and multiplying amoebas and cells? Would it not be possible to believe that trees gave us our first breath of oxygen on our quest to evolve into the crazy human characters we are today? That they gave us life right from the very beginning? And maybe by doing so they inadvertently, created us in their own image? Humans directly related to trees? Is this possible?

The Zapotecs of Mexico believed that their ancestors had been born from old trees. This myth of humans having descended from trees can be found in cultures all across the globe. I certainly feel interconnectedness with trees when I stand amongst them. It feels like they are filling me not only with their life-giving oxygen but with their strength, confidence and quiet, Zen-like wisdom as well. As I study them more closely, I realize how much tree trunks resemble human torsos. How much tree branches are like arms and fingers and their thick roots like feet and toes. Jesus and his father Joseph were carpenters. Jesus died on a wooden cross. Check out all the woodwork the next time you are in a church or a synagogue or a temple. I’m not sure what I believe in sometimes but I do know that nature is more powerful than I am and I have great respect for it.

Over the past couple of years I have been creating these paintings and drawings with all of these ideas floating around in my imagination. Take your time and have a good long look at them. Maybe you will see yourself. And then you can thank the trees for the air that you breathe.

Michael Gullberg

My current work is dedicated to three men whose lives will forever affect my own. Their lives were led with great integrity, hard work, creativity and a passion for learning and I will miss them and always be inspired by the way they lived their lives.

Nils Rutgers Gullberg Jr. - April 5, 1938- June 1, 2001
George “Larry” Patterson - April 14, 1923 - April 12, 2010
Salvatore Angelo Riccio - February 5, 1905 – October 4, 2011