NCMA Recommends: The Tree of Life

Minnie Evans, The Tree of Life, 1962, colored pencil on paper, 11 7/8 — 8 7/8 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. D. H. McCollough and the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

How does your spiritual life affect your creativity? Do your dreams inspire you? To self-taught North Carolina artist Minnie Evans, the answer to both questions was “yes.” Evans took cues from the natural environment and her own dreamlike visions to create colorful, symbol-laden designs, celebrating life on earth and in the heavenly beyond.

Jennifer Dasal, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Audio Description

The recording below is an audio description of The Tree of Life. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.

Family Activities

Discover the fantastical drawings of Minnie Evans through activities and reading recommendations for families with children in grade levels PreK to 4th grade.

  – Symmetry Collage: You can find flowers, animals, insects, and stars evenly arranged on both sides of Evans’s drawings. Make a colorful and symmetrical composition on a flat surface. Use machine-made objects with different colors or textures or include leaves, sticks, or other natural materials gathered outdoors. Can you find balance in your display?

  – Crayon rubbing: You might find materials Evans used in your home: crayons! A nature-inspired rubbing can showcase these colorful tools. Collect flat, textured materials like leaves. Place under paper and rub the side of a crayon over to reveal textures and details. Cut out, glue to construction paper, and add lines or other marks.

  – Dreamy sensory bin: Evans received inspiration from dreams and visions. Tap into your imagination by creating a sensory bin. Fill a large, flat container with small objects like dried beans or rice. Add colorful items like those in Evans’s drawings: flowers, dolls, animal figurines. To play, sort the contents by color and texture or put together a story using the objects.

  Related reading:

– Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist by Mary E. Lyons

– Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Visit a Garden or Plant Your Own

Find inspiration from nature like Minnie Evans did! Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, where Evans worked and illustrated, offers a variety of in-person and virtual programs, such as tree walks, birding, and gardening.

Now is the time to plan your spring garden and start seeds indoors! Learn more using these resources from N.C. Cooperative Extension:

Starting a Garden from Seeds

Growing Vegetables from Seed Resources

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Book Recommendations

  – Heavenly Visions: The Art of Minnie Evans by Mitchell D. Kahan is a catalogue of the exhibition held at the NCMA in 1986. Public library copies are available at Pack Memorial and Scotland County Memorial.

  – My Soul Has Grown Deep: Black Art from the American South, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2018), discusses southern Black self-taught artists working during and after the civil rights era.

  – Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels (2000) investigates the history and study of outsider art.

  – Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America by Katherine Jentleson (2020) explores the origins of the current captivation with self-taught artists.

– The online resource Minnie Evans features a biography and listing of works in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Film Recommendations

Minnie Evans’s Tree of Life is evocative of the dreamlike images and magical realism depicted in these films, which feature young girls who find solace in fantasy to escape harsh realities.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). Director: Benh Zeitlin. Hushpuppy goes in search of her mother when her father falls ill and her community is threatened by flooding and mythical beasts. Watch on HBO Max or rent on Amazon or YouTube.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Director: Guillermo del Toro. The horrors of both reality and fantasy are depicted through Ofelia’s eyes in fascist Spain and a world of mythical beings. Watch on Netflix or rent on Amazon or YouTube.

A Little Princess (1995). Director: Alfonso Cuar³n. Sara turns to heroic and magical tales to escape her difficult life at a boarding school. Watch on HBO Max or rent on Amazon or YouTube.

Guided Meditation for Finding Inspiration

Artist Minnie Evans did not seek out inspiration but listened to it when it struck–sometimes from curious and intangible places, sometimes from dreams and nature. Join Patrice Graham from Colors of Yoga for a short guided meditation to access the deep well of creativity that resides within you.

Inspired Museum Store Offerings

Minnie Evans was inspired by her faith and the natural world. Makers of many products in the Museum Store are energized by a variety of experiences. Artist and community activist Stacy Ahua’s soy candles celebrate culture and identity. Ahua’s family and heritage inspired her Usu Co. scents Grandad’s Farm, Nepa, and Ivy Rose.

Visit the Museum Store during regular gallery hours, or email help@ncartmuseum.org or call (919) 664-6874 to schedule free Plaza pickup.


Feb 26, 2021


10:00 AM
For More Information:
(919) 715-5923
Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm
Scroll to Top