Friday, October 7, 2016

From the West Unto the East

             From the West Unto the East, pastel, 13 x 14 inches                       ©2009 Barbara Benedetti Newton

Outside the kitchen door of the home my father built, the place I lived with my parents and siblings until I was twenty-one years old, there was an Italian prune tree. My father planted it there. It was one of the constants in my life.

Every September the ripening fruit coupled with the excitement of starting another school year. It was a source of food where I could eat my fill. I learned lessons of patience through eating green, unripe prunes and paying the price. After I left home to attend art school, a visit to my parents, especially at the end of summer, was also a reconnect to our prune tree.

As an adult with a family of my own, Mama saved bags of prunes for us. When my father was in his final days, I gave him a haircut outside in the summer sun beside the prune tree as he listened to me talk about Heaven. A few years after Daddy died, Mama hired someone to cut the prune tree down. I’m still trying to get over it. But, now I know it was the one thing that helped me cut my ties to the house on “M” Street when Mama moved to assisted living. 

A few shoots sprang up from the roots and my husband saved several. For many years Daddy’s prune tree lived on and produced in abundance in my own yard. Four years after my mother passed away, with a Bob Dylan tune in my head; I painted “From the West unto the East.” It is a painting of our prune tree. It is about life and death, change and adjustment. It is about being released or releasing yourself. This painting is in my private collection.

This painting is scheduled to be included in an upcoming book. The publisher asked about the story behind the painting. Thought it might be interesting to you.


  1. A beautiful and tender story, Barbara. All the while I was reading I could see my backyard tree (though it was an apple tree.)Your painting is moving and is your story.

  2. This painting is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the story behind it. I'm curious why there seems to be so few pastel artists that do abstract work.

    1. Hello Maragaret, thanks for your comment here. I judged the Member Show for the Northwest Pastel Society last weekend and out of 50+ pieces we had a handful of lovely abstracts. Perhaps those working in pastel are drawn to the light in their reference photos rather than working without a reference for an abstract?