As a kid, painter Annalisa Fink sought out the company of trees. “I was a shy kid,” she admits. There was a grove of massive sycamores surrounding her childhood home. “At night I would lay on the roof and hang out with the trees, feel them moving around me” she remembers. “They must have been hundreds of feet tall.” It’s weird how feeling small—feeling surrounded—can give us a sense of security. It does, though; and for Annalisa, the looming wildness of nature takes center stage in her bold, nature-praising paintings. “I always felt most happy and free [with the trees]. They made me feel safe.”

It’s like a beautiful puzzle. I can immerse myself in it; it gives my brain a rest from the things I want to perpetually worry about.

Staring at Annalisa’s recent rhododendron works feels like standing in a southeastern woodland on a hot summer day. At first, there’s a nearly blinding shock of green. Then, darkness—something you can’t see but you can feel. Finally the brazen picture softens and you see a spectrum of light and a dancing pattern of leaves. “Rhododendrons are so articulated. They’re such beautiful, simple shapes. There’s a real rhythm to them.” Working within a limited palette, Annalisa paints from photographs she’s taken on hikes. Like her childhood roof, the woods surround her with energy, peace beyond words. “I bring the photograph home, and it’s nothing,” she laughs. Her task, she muses, is to mimic the experience.

“Leaves are so . . . there’s so many. It’s like a beautiful puzzle. I can immerse myself in it; it gives my brain a rest from the things I want to perpetually worry about.” Rhododendrons pull Annalisa in, giving her particular set of life circumstances a preternatural assignment—to translate their magic. “In a beam of light, all these colors exist. When I paint, I’m working with less than what’s in nature,” she says. Her paintings enunciate the possibility of green—the intensity of hot pink or electric aqua. They go beyond mere transcription—there’s a heat to them, a humidity. You can almost hear the cicadas thrumming through Annalisa’s paintings.

Annalisa is no stranger to the shifting sands of life. For starters, she’s a mother. For those who aren’t, read that as paragraphs of selfless pivoting and unexpected punches. She’s also currently moving houses—a practice in patience and mindfulness all to itself. She struggles, like countless others do, with an anxious mind. And then, she’s a person trudging through the pandemic world.

“Living with uncertainty is learning that you are okay, that you can be okay.” It’s more a practice than anything, and one that Annalisa has embraced. The same inner voice that called her to her childhood rooftop to lie under the sycamores calls her to lovingly paint her rhododendrons. “I love their balance between delicateness and strength. Each branch has a leaf that it has to let go. I identify with that whole cycle.”

 Find Annalisa Fink’s work locally at Art & Light Gallery in the Village of West Greenville: