All you want to know about story telling, naïve art (folk art)  and symbolism.

Celestine and the Magical Geranium. © B.Sala
Celestine and the Magical Geranium is a fairy tale written by naive painter Barbara Sala.  Celestine, the main character is hungry to experience life.  A seed has been entrusted to her, but she is not yet aware of its existence.
The seed matures in the darkness of a potato bag and later in the warm and moist earth. When Celestine enters her garden, she is surprised to see the seed has grown into a magnificent flower. She falls in love with its beauty, just like a mother falls in love with her new-born baby. She takes loving care of this unexpected gift and the plant grows and grows into the sky.
  Celestine begs Geranium to stop growing, but Geranium can’t. Which kind of growing are we talking about?

Celestine and the Magical Geranium. © B.Sala

Symbolically Celestine represents our material body and Geranium our soul that uses this body as a vehicle to learn and grow by experiencing its potential in the earthen sphere.  Celestine and Geranium are one.


The flower thrives on a kingdom island and people from neighboring kingdoms are attracted by its unique radiance.  Geranium is generous and shares her gifts with the world.  But she cannot satisfy the never-ending flow of people.  She becomes weak and tired.  In the end she has to die and to resurrect through new seeds.

Symbolically, this process describes the expansion of our consciousness on earth from incarnation to incarnation.  The unfulfilled potential is the motivation that brings us back into a new incarnation on earth.  This is the mysterious force that flows from seed to seed to infinity.


Why would a naive painter create such a symbolic fairytale?


“Fairytales are a unique art form”, says Bruno Bettellheim in his book “The Uses of Enchantment”.   Fairytales are the bridges between our conscious and unconscious worlds.  They are comprehensible for a child and for an adult who has retained or reconquered through life’s experience, an exuberance and connection to his Inner Self.  When naive painters paint they become storytellers and in their childlike style they  weave dreamlike fantasies and symbolic tales on canvass.

Henri Rousseau 
Naive painters are visionaries.  Celestine and the Magical Geranium is a visionary folktale.  It tells us that everything changes and nothing is lost. Through the distribution of seed thoughts, other minds are being touched and become the fertile ground for these seeds to grow and multiply. 


Naive art is an art form that cannot be learned.  It comes from the heart, that’s why naive painters are also called “Painters of the Heart”.  They paint spontaneously and trust the images from the unconscious without analyzing them.  With each new painting they rediscover the world.

© Edward Hicks, ”Peaceable Kingdom”

The word “naive” in connection with paintings was used for the first time in the beginning of the 20th century, describing the style of Henri Rousseau (1844 – 1910).  It was rather an expression of contempt, when compared to the style of Picasso , Braque,  Monet,  Modigliani. etc. Whereas  the art of the child is a style of social transition,  naive art is the creative expression of adults who have had interesting life experiences. Naive art transcends any artistic movement. It is timeless. There are hundreds and hundreds of naive painters throughout the world whose paintings I love and greatly admire. I will only mention a few who have impressed me or who I have met. 


Besides Henri Rousseau, “Le Douanier”, I cherish the paintings by  Anna Mary Robertson or  “Grandma Moses”.  She started to paint late in life and lived until 101.  The “Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward  Hicks (1780 – 1849) is one of the images that nourishes my mind.

“Le bonhomme Carnaval" 
© Yvon M. Daigle

Internationally famous are the Haitian and Yugoslave naive painters.  In Quebec, where I am living, there is a strong naive tradition.  One of the important naive painters is Arthur Villeneuve (1910 – 1990), who painted every  wall and door of his house, inside and outside. Personally I have met and exposed with Marie Gelinas, Anne-Marie Bost and Guy Boulizon (1906 – 2003).  A close friend of mine Yvon M. Daigle, who is also a naive painter has founded the only international naïve art museum in Canada which is called “Musee international d’art naive Yvon M. Daigle”, Magog, Quebec (
Naive painters live surrounded by their modern reality, but on canvass they will change this through their unique vision filled with the poetry of simplicity. It is because of this simplicity that naive paintings are often called “childlike”.

"Marjolaine”  © B.Sala
My paintings are created with my limitations in  perspective and form. My people are dressed in baggy clothes, which eliminates my problem with drawing the human body and “Marjolaine” has her feet in water which hides them. I did not  discover naive art.  To the contrary, one could say that  naive art discovered me: “One day, as I was playingthe piano, pictures appeared in my mind to the rhythm of the music.  I witnessed scenes from my childhood, children dancing, animals and a funeral procession. 
There was no drama to this, but rather a “sense of love and gentleness…. It was a marvelous discovery and from then on I opened up to the magical world flowering with images, dreams and stories.“ (Naive… ces peintres du Quebec et de l’Acadie, by Guy Boulizon, Yvon Daigle, Anne-Marie Bost, Editions du Trecarre, 1989)

"The velvet flower coat"
© B. Sala
The Pegasus and the couple in “The velvet flower coat” stand so highly above the landscape because their love fills their entire universeThe “Burden of her childhood” is so all consuming and fills out her inner being, as she drags this burden through her adult life.  Everything else is small in comparison. Each figure is a symbol of my inner life and every onlooker relates to it differently with his or her own life experience.

In conclusion and considering the above mentioned, Celestine and the Magical Geranium is not only for children, but for grown-ups as well.  Its wisdom,  like in most fairytales, is hidden, but speaks to the soul of everyone.


Naive painters of the world,  I salute you!

 © 2005-2012 Barbara Sala


"Carrying the burden of her childhood”

© B. Sala





© 2015 Barbara Sala | All Rights Reserved.