A while back, maybe 6-7 years, I got the thought in my head that the leaves from sweet gum trees resembled five-pointed stars of the kind that appear on the American flag. Might have been brilliant insight, or maybe just the bourbon talking. We’ll never know. So anyway, I collected 50 sweet gum leaves, plus a red maple leaf, a yellow poplar leaf and a green sycamore leaf and using my scanner and Photoshop assembled this image that I called the “Leaf Flag.” It’s sort of an outlier to most of my work. I keep thinking about printing it large and hanging it outdoors but so far I’ve just made it available as an inkjet print in a bin in my yurt gallery/studio.
Yesterday I got a visit from a young woman who called and asked to come by and see the poetry walk and the yurt gallery. Her car pulled up, she got out and the car drove away. I said, “Is your partner coming back?” “No,” she said, “That’s an Uber driver.” In my mind I’m thinking “What? Someone actually found an Uber car around here and used it to come to my place? And does she really think there’s an Uber car in the whole county that will come back out here in the woods and pick her up when she’s done?” Out loud I said “Wow, nobody’s ever come here in an Uber car. When you’re done I’ll give you ride back to town.”
Turned out the young woman was a foreign exchange student going to college in North Carolina and using her free time to see as much of the USA as she could. She was from Zimbabwe and majoring in business and politics. She spent a good deal of time on the poetry walk and eventually arrived at the yurt gallery where I met up with her again. We chatted a bit. She impressed me as being both curious and insightful and I quite enjoyed our conversation.
After perusing the gallery she was preparing to leave when she stopped by the bin of inkjet prints and started leafing through them. She found a leaf image she liked and set it aside, and kept on. Then she came to the “Leaf Flag” image. Instead of laughing and going on the next image like most visitors, she asked if she could take that print too. I said sure, even though I couldn’t fathom the appeal of an American flag image to a visitor from Zimbabwe. Then she explained. The colors of your flag image are the same colors as those of my flag. I can take this print back and put it on my wall and it will represent both where I am and where I’m from.
So today I had to go find a picture of the Zimbabwe flag. Here it is.
That’s all I got. Now I’m wondering what inspirations are at work when countries choose colors for their flags. Do some look inward for emotional colors, and others look outward for nature’s colors? Somebody must have researched this. Anyway, what an interesting coincidence.