Website of artist Tuck Contreras /

Thumbnail of website emblem, showing a sawblade morphing into a chrysanthemum.





project: Roses

Roses, a mixed-media work by Tuck Contreras (e-copyright 2009)

Nueve Rosas. A montage of nine mixed-media (acrylic paints, copper, art glass, metallic pen and metallic powder) panels. Each panel measures 16 x 24 in.

Created in the spring of 2007, Nueve Rosas was a commissioned work for the Palm Desert, California home of Susan and Robert Rose, where it is mounted above the fireplace in the main living area. Tuck designed Nueve Rosas for mounting directly to a finished wall as pictured (3 rows of 3 roses), although the client is free to rearrange the 9 individual studies, as best suits the interior décor and ambient lighting where they are displayed, or for any other reason, including the desire to add a little seasonal variety to the mix.

Tuck’s inspired blooms recreate real sun-lit roses of exquisite beauty, growing in a well-tended local rosebed, but English-garden sentimental they are not. Tuck’s Nine Roses are a bold-stroked blend of intense, saturated color, glimmered with metallic accents and hints of iridescence. Her rosy outlook here is more passionate than prim, and more disorderly than concentrically disposed within familiar symmetrical forms.

Nueve Rosas are not timeless rosettes, but evoke the vagaries — and surprises — of life itself.


As explained at the companion website for our Roses project, Tuck has now dedicated her multi-layered roseate vision, with its heart-moving hues, To the Woman with Gynecologic Cancer.

Tuck’s Nine Roses are individually intriguing — dazzling together — with four of the nine painted in what the 19th-century poet, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), once poignantly described as lovers’ yellow.

Nature rarer uses Yellow
Than another Hue.
Saves she all of that for Sunsets
Prodigal of Blue

Spending Scarlet, like a Woman
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly
Like a Lover’s Words.

(Untitled poem; No. 1045 in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, who dates its composition c.1865)

Not just colors, but roses, also, are favorite subjects for Dickinson, who often sent an exquisitely crafted poem, alongside a freshly-cut bloom from her garden, to others in her circle via messenger (Aife Murray, Maid as Muse 1).

For millennia, connoisseurs have drawn a parallel

Betwixt Poetry & Painting … Poetry being but a speaking Picture, as Painting a silent Poem….

(Richard Flecknoe, The Diarium, or Journall Divided into 12 Jornadas in Burlesque Rhime, or Drolling Verse …, published at London in 1656)

as the 17th-century poetaster and playwright, Richard Flecknoe, restated the classical proverb in 1656 when identifying the art of Flemish painter and printmaker, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525–1569), as his model for “representing Grotesque & fantastick figures” and for picturing human “follies, abuses, and vices” in verse.

Because Dickinson’s verbal art complements Tuck’s visual art so well, I have selected 13 of her poems relating to roses for reproduction here.

I believe Dickinson’s “speaking pictures” will pierce the souls of women, everywhere, who are living with a transformational reproductive cancer.

Panel from "Roses", a mixed-media work by Tuck Contreras (e-copyright 2010)

In one of her poems (written c.1859), Dickinson describes herself as ever

… grateful for the Roses
In life’s diverse bouquet —

(No. 93, Johnson edn. of Poems, p. 46)

For Dickinson, gazing into and (like the “sainted Bee”) coaxing open the globe of a rose is a profoundly introspective and symbolic act.

At times, she transforms and merges with the rose.

A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn —
A flask of Dew — A Bee or two —
A Breeze — a caper in the trees —
And I’m a Rose!

(No. 19, Johnson edn., p. 15; composed c.1858)

This transformational motif is almost always in the background of her poems about blossoming flowers, and there are several occasions when Dickinson uses the rose to explore even more knotty questions about the identity manifest in difference:

A science — so the Savants say,
“Comparative Anatomy” —
By which a single bone —
Is made a secret to unfold
Of some rare tenant of the mold,
Else perished in the stone —

So to the eye prospective led,
This meekest flower of the mead
Upon a winter’s day,
Stands representative in gold
Of Rose and Lily, manifold,
And countless Butterfly!

(No. 100, Johnson edn., p. 49; composed c.1859)

Dickinson was well aware of the vulnerabilities she and other women shared with the rose:

She sped as Petals of a Rose
Offended by the Wind —
A frail Aristocrat of Time
Indemnity to find —
Leaving on nature — a Default
As Cricket or as Bee —
But Andes in the Bosoms where
She had begun to lie —

(No. 991, Johnson edn., p. 461; composed c.1865)

And again:

A full fed Rose on meals of Tint
A Dinner for a Bee
In process of the Noon became —
Each bright Mortality
The Forfeit is of Creature fair
Itself, adored before
Submitting for our unknown sake
To be esteemed no more —

(No. 1154, Johnson edn., p. 516; composed c.1870)

There is a mysterious power in such vulnerability, as we see when Dickinson explicitly connects aging with resilience:

A little Snow was here and there
Disseminated in her Hair —
Since she and I had met and played
Decade had gathered to Decade —

But Time had added not obtained
Impregnable the Rose
For summer too indelible
Too obdurate for Snows —

(No. 1444, Johnson edn., p. 614; composed c.1878)

In a series of complex twists and turns, Dickinson engages in a double, bittersweet play with our fondness for rosy-colored world-views and the flower’s gift of spiritual uplift:

On the World you colored
Morning painted rose —
Idle his Vermilion
Aimless crept the Glows
Over Realms of Orchards
I the Day before
Conquered with the Robin —
Misery, how fair
Till your wrinkled Finger
Shored the sun away
Midnight’s awful Pattern
In the Goods of Day —

(No. 1171, Johnson edn., p. 521; composed c.1870)

And again:

Would you like summer? Taste of ours.
Spices? Buy here!
Ill! We have berries, for the parching!
Weary! Furloughs of down!
Perplexed! Estates of violet trouble
     ne’er looked on!
Captive! We bring reprieve of roses!
Fainting! Flasks of air!
Even for Death, a fairy medicine.
But, which is it, sir?

(No. 691, Johnson edn., pp. 340–1; composed 1863?)

Elsewhere, Dickinson uses the rose to succinctly impart such important life lessons as:

Partake as doth the Bee,
The Rose is an Estate —
In Sicily.

(No. 994, Johnson edn., p. 462; composed c.1865)


Go not too near a House of Rose —
The depredation of a Breeze
Or inundation of a Dew
Alarms its walls away —
Nor try to tie the Butterfly,
Nor climb the Bars of Ecstasy,
In insecurity to lie
Is Joy’s insuring quality.

(No. 1434, Johnson edn., pp. 610–611; composed c.1878)

and again:

Where Roses would not dare to go,
What Heart would risk the way —
And so I send my Crimson Scouts
To sound the Enemy —

(No. 1582, Johnson edn., p. 656; composed c.1883)

Of special significance for all of us involved in Communicating By Design’s Roses project, Dickinson long ago envisioned an intimate connection between roses and creative struggle:

Artists wrestled here!
Lo, a tint Cashmere!
Lo, a Rose!
Student of the Year!
For the easel here
Say Repose!

(No. 110, Johnson edn., p. 53; composed c.1859)

In keeping with what James Longenbach calls the “wild” metaphors and unsettling insights of Dickinson’s poetry (and even everyday speech), Dickinson never wavered in her intense vision of the rose as commemorative of passionate love & loss:

If she had been the Mistletoe
And I had been the Rose —
How gay upon your table
My velvet life to close —
Since I am of the Druid,
And she is of the dew —
I’ll deck Tradition’s buttonhole —
And send the Rose to you.

(No. 44, Johnson edn., p. 25; composed c.1858)

and as intimately linked with her own mortality.

I keep my pledge.
I was not called —
Death did not notice me.
I bring my Rose.
I plight again,
By every sainted Bee —
By Daisy called from hillside —
By Bobolink from lane.
Blossom and I —
Her oath, and mine —
Will surely come again.

(No. 46, Johnson edn., p. 26; composed c.1858)

Panel from "Roses", a mixed-media work by Tuck Contreras (e-copyright 2010)

Like Dickinson, we, too, bribe Death with Roses … for as long as we can get away with it!

And so can you.

Tuck will now recreate her mixed-media Roses for clients, upon request, with profits donated to our innovative cancer education projects.

Tuck offers several options for commissioning original Roses, in hopes of reaching beyond the usual patrons of the fine arts, to the families, friends & supporters of women with gynecologic cancers.

For example, you can order a single Rose or a group of Roses.

You can stick with an acrylics-based mixed-media composition (as with the original Nueve Rosas), or you can have Tuck craft one or more Roses from art glass and metals (as with her study, Sunflower in Glass).

Because we’re charging for original Roses artworks by the square inch, you can have Tuck size Roses to fit your budget (within limits, of course; Tuck doesn’t do miniatures! ;-) and/or a particular display space.

And you can even negotiate with Tuck on things like color, should you have a particular need to match a given interior décor … or a desire to personalize the symbolism.

As Tuck is only one artist, there are a limited number of commissioned Roses she can produce in a lifetime (and if you order one or more, each will be formally numbered and recorded, as well as signed by the artist, and come with paperwork in order to establish the artwork’s value and provenance — just like you were a museum or other institutional collector). So we encourage you to get your order in early, before she gets too back-logged.

Close-up views showing more of the glass and copper details of the mixed-media Rose designs are provided on nine separate Web pages, which you can cycle through using the numbered links at the top of the navigation bar to the left.


» for MORE ABOUT how to commission an original Rose, please visit Tuck’s Orders Page

» for MORE ABOUT Emily Dickinson and her insightful poems about roses, Click/Tap Here

» for MORE ABOUT our understanding of cancer as transformative, and some philosophical musings on the cancer patient’s “identity in difference,” Click/Tap Here


return to TOP of page