In this excerpt taken from “An Interview with Artist Breda Catherine Ennis,” beginning on p. 97, Ennis discusses with Sean Patrick Lovett the importance of nature in her work as a painter and as a Catholic:
It has been said of your work that you do not turn to nature as a means of escape or even refuge, but rather, in nature you are seeking the hidden messages nature wants to pass on to us. Trees in general have been an important medium or mode for you in this regard. Would you speak more about “Tree Ascending” (the cover art) with regard to this hidden voice of nature and how it serves the voice of the Divine?
“Tree Ascending” was born from a photograph I took of a specific tree in an orchard in Ireland. I photographed the tree from a low position behind some flowers. There was a very light mist that day and when I finally looked at the photo I saw this tree literally floating upwards from a bed of tall flowers. It no longer seemed to be rooted in the ground. … The tree is intimately connected to the material and suffering of the Cross on the one hand and also linked to the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ went to look for comfort from his Father. What I was trying to do was attempt to show the final earthly moment of the message of salvation — a sense of triumph! I felt that the flowers were giving the tree permission to “ascend.” Every movement in the painting is going toward the vertical.
From the beginning of my work as a painter, trees have been for me an enormously important source of inspiration. Over and over again I have found myself fascinated by their vast range of colors and by the energy they emanate. … Trees surround our lives like almost nothing else in creation. Their colors change with the changing seasons, evoking and echoing in vivid form the different stages of human existence. They are exalted, we can say, in “the spirituality of light” and are transfigured by the impact of wind and storm, of rain and shadow and light. In Ireland, when the illumined rays of the setting sun sweep over large trees, they tend to create shadows that resemble human profiles. And these shadows are so unique and impressive they seem almost to observe us from the world of the Divine.