The Baranoff Oak is located in front of the public library in Safety Harbor, FL. It is known as the oldest living Live Oak in Pinellas County, estimated between 300-500 years old. The twisty branches spread out as though to greet passersby and hold you in a friendly embrace. Working in Safety Harbor for years, I walked by this tree almost daily. People of all kinds, both visitors and residents, find shelter and rest in its shade.
In my opinion this iconic tree is the centerpiece of Safety Harbor, embodying the soul of the town.
When I was commissioned to paint the Baranoff for a local restaurant, I was so excited because I already loved the tree. I could easily envision bringing it to life on canvas, memorializing it for all the happy diners that passed through the doors.
As is my usual process, I went out and took lots of photos of the tree. I spent a lot of time just hanging out with the tree, getting a sense for its mood, its atmosphere. I wanted to really have a grasp of its nature in order to be prepared to paint its likeness.
I was making this piece while I was pregnant and, despite my best attempts at, planning, I gave birth before I could finish. I was juggling a colicky newborn while attempting to complete the project. The painting and my new infant and myself grew together, all little particles that make up the substance of this town. I imagine this tree will be here long after my daughter and I are gone, whether because we’ve moved or because we’ve lived our lives to completion. But regardless of who goes first, I know I’ll always share roots with the Baranoff Oak and Safety Harbor and that makes me happy.