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Art Critique

Critique: Nick Lenz's Root-Over-Rock Apple

by Candy J. Shirey
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Formal portrait - June 2005

Winter portrait - February 2007 - Front




Looking upward into canopy

Detail of rough, scarred, and warty trunk and branches


Composition by Nick Lenz

Species: Malus sp.
Style: Root-over-Rock

Height of tree from soil line to apex: 22 inches (55.88 cm)
Trunk diameter at top of stone: 3.25 inches (8.25 cm)
Canopy length: 46 inches (116.84 cm)
Canopy width: 32 inches (81.28 cm)
Rectangular Pot by Nick Lenz
Pot length: 19.75 inches (50.16 cm)
Pot width: 15 inches (38.10 cm)
Pot height: 3.75 inches (9.52 cm)

Collected pre 1982 and transferred to the Candy J. Shirey bonsai collection in June 2005.

The tree sits at a steep angle atop a large rock with the roots dripping over the rock and merging into the soil.

The main element in this sculpture is the serpentine line of the trunk and this element is echoed in the movement of the descending branches. The trunk and branches are shades of grey splashed with grey-green lichens. The branches reach beyond the confines of the pot and provide an umbrella of shade in the summer. The strong tapering trunk line is enhanced by the coarse crusty texture of the trunk.

The base of the trunk rests atop a large roughly triangular shaped rock. The rock covers 2/3 of the pot surface and has many light earth toned colors. As the trunk descends the rock, it slowly divides and transforms into large rope-like roots that straddle the rock and hug its crevices. Green and grey mosses and lichens track the roots as they descend and merge into the grey-green topsoil.

The tree is contained in a ceramic pot of light earth-toned colors. The rectangular ceramic pot edges and corners are softened by rounding of the hard angles.


This composition is vibrant and full of life. The strong slant of the mainline of the trunk and the extreme movement of the upper trunk line and branches convey energy and vibrancy. In addition, the flowing lines of the roots enhance the animation. The light tones of the rock and pot supplement the bright and breezy mood.

The arrangement of tree, rock and pot is strongly feminine. The light colored rock and light colored pot suggest femininity. The gentle flowing line in trunk, branches, and exposed roots resonate with the soft rounded edges on the rectangular pot.

There are elements that are not characteristically feminine; the root-over-rock style, the rectangular pot, and the coarse texture of the bark.

The placement of the rock and the tree within the pot is visually balanced. Though the line of the tree starts at the far right and slants to the far left, the strong line of the pot and the rock provide a stable foundation. Additionally, the inclination of the trunk duplicates the angle of the rock, providing a powerful stable visual base. The well-placed descending branches lower the center of gravity which adds to the stability.

The pot color complements the colors in the rock and aids to tie the composition together. The grey-green topsoil ties the colors of the lichen and mosses together to create harmony.

The placement of branches and the angle of branches create a rhythm to the composition. The powerful serpentine movement in the upper part of the trunk is echoed in the movement of the branches.

Age is an element in this composition. It is suggested by the descending branches, the trunk taper and the rough texture of the bark.


Nick Lenz's Root-Over-Rock Apple Tree is a dynamic feminine sculpture of balance and harmony. If one were to anthropomorphize this sculpture, one would find a spirited old woman. This old woman is dancing and her hair is flying in the wind.

One can sense the femininity thru the elements of line and color. Age is depicted in the trunk taper and rough texture of the bark. The dance is represented in the dynamic trunk movement.

This composition is not the typical soft, young, graceful, feminine tree. Nick has endowed this feminine sculpture with strength, power and passion. Using a softly rectangular pot as a sturdy frame, he has provided a strong base. The rough, coarse texture of the bark conveys maturity. The root-over-rock style, which often symbolizes an old tree clinging to life on a cliff face, has been replaced by a tree that is trying to escape earthly bonds.

This combination of elements provides a cohesive design for the archetype of the old spirited woman.


I am moved by the design. It strikes me in a personal intimate way. It lures me in and invites me to explore its fundamental nature. On this level alone, the design is successful.

The artist has successfully applied the principles of design to compose a literal representation of a tree. However, this is no ordinary tree and Nick Lenz is not an ordinary artist. By refined technique, creativity, and talent, this tree has also been endowed with character and soul.

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