By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Poway, Calif.) - A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it doesn't take that many for artist and writer Christine Renhard Stenstrom to describe her work, Cherry Blossom Trees. The succinct prose of just 55 words and its accompanying artwork are the centerpiece of her new coffee table book, Cherry Blossom Trees Literary Writings and Artworks (Beaver's Pond Press, 2010, $59.95).
"Inspiration is a revelation from the visual to the unseen, personal experiences to even an event on television such as drought striken farm lands looked to me like shattered glass. I composed the prose 'Shattered Earth' with that in mind," said Renhard Stenstrom. She was also deeply touched by recent world events, particularly the fires that ravaged her California neighborhood in Oct. 2007. Seven of her neighbors lost their homes. Her home and yard sustained moderate damage.
"When I looked up and I saw the moon and it was this crimson color, it just took hold of me. Soon after I came up with the prose, 'Crimson Moon,'" said Renhard Stenstrom. In it, she describes the night sky in this way: "A crimson moon rises perplexed at its shading of a colorful reflection of earth's unfathomable glow..."
She also writes and creates artworks about how events such as the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the War in Kosovo have affected not just her, but her readers as well. And she writes about the ordinary and mundane, making something so simple as a scene you'd come across at the county fair or walking down the streets of Monterey, Calif., seem magical. "Each piece has a little story in itself and you can look at different aspects of the artwork and say, 'Oh my, I've seen something like that before.'"
The beauty of Renhard Stenstrom's prose is that she does not use personal pronouns. Instead, it is written in such a way that the reader is invited to share in the experience. "I wanted to appeal to the reader on some level. To invite them in. To expose them to a different approach to art and to writing," she said.
According to the book's art director, Mary McNully of McNully Creative, San Diego, she has done just that. "This delightful book by Christine Renhard Stenstrom invites us on a rich and vibrant visual and verbal journey. Her bright, energetic brush strokes dance with the eye in a stimulating way, and in her prose, the simple and ordinary around us is illuminated, enriched and enlivened. Layers are peeled back to see beneath and beyond. In her provocative descriptions of the everyday world, the subtle becomes sublime and the mundane becomes magical," she said.
Renhard Stenstrom credits the recognition she received from her alma mater, the University of Washington, with encouraging her to publish her first book. "Back in 2004 I had accepted the University of Washington Alumni Association's invitation to participate in their Cherry Blossom Tree Project, which called on alumni to share their thoughts about the Yoshino Cherry Blossom Trees that for decades had graced the liberal arts quadrangle on campus. My work was chosen to appear on the website and remained there for five years."
Winning that recognition, and further encouragement from friends and family, inspired her to create more companion pieces and eventually compile them into a book. Among the pieces she considers most significant in the book, Christmas 1991, a prose and accompanying watercolor she created and sent out as the family Christmas card that year. "That was such a defining moment, and such a profound experience. I really saw my ability start to evolve and to come together as I started incorporating writing into the artwork. Reflecting back, as a Christian I recognized the spiritual significance of that defining moment," she said.
She also credits the work of author James Michener, whose stories she started reading during her sophomore year in high school, with influencing her writing style. "I was especially inspired by his ability to be so thorough in his research and descriptive in his writing by adding that one extra emotion, that one extra description, that one extra color, that extra little detail," she said.
In his review of the book, Richard J. Dunn, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Washington said, "Christine Renhard Stenstrom's work as a painter and writer vividly reminds us that just as a painting can speak, writing can picture, help us to see, to enjoy, and to determine for ourselves beauties seen and unseen all around us. The intersections of different art forms themselves are points at which understanding and feeling intensify and achieve clarity."
"To me life is extremely exciting and if we only look at something through just a very narrow frame of reference we are missing out. It is my hope that the reader will be affected in this journey and ultimately have a new perspective towards nature, people, places, commentaries and themes of cultural diversity. Please enjoy and reflect upon the creativity of the interaction of my artwork and my writings," said Renhard Stenstrom.
Cherry Blossom Trees Literary Writings and Artworks retails for $59.95 and is available for sale on the author's website: www.britikafinearts.com. The book was recently recognized as a finalist in the Art Category of the National Indie Excellence® Awards.