The Artist Behind “The Happy Tree”

Story by Xavier Mendoza
Photo Courtesy of Caitlyn McMullen

During the tension of the election last semester, a positive symbol was created for a day in the middle of campus. Junior, Caitlyn McMullen created the piece, dubbed by her peers, “The Happy Tree.”

It was a tree decorated with fabric, which displayed positive written responses from peers and was available for viewing on North campus on Nov. 17.

The Talent behind the Tree
McMullen is a studio art concentration in printmaking with minor in art history. In her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts program, she has critiques every semester as her work is monitored for its progress, including the requirement of all of her pieces having a central idea and cohesion with each other. Her assignments include things like linocut (linoleum trimmed) print plates and monthly artwork.

“[Linocut plates] are made by carving the grooves and design into a block of linoleum,” McMullen said. “After creating the correct consistency of the ink, you put the block on an ink roller, then you press the paper onto the print. Afterwards, it creates a reverse of the print.”


Even with her busy schedule, her idea of “The Happy Tree” is currently her proudest piece.
“I wanted to give people a positive reminder during the election,” McMullen said. “Each strand has a different word. All [words] are answers from people I asked about what makes them happy.”

According to McMullen, the strands represented things that people may not see in a positive light or are things that most people may take for granted. Some of the answers ranged from something simple like “baseball and roller coasters” to deeper things like “their kids” or “life in general”.

Displaying the Tree
McMullen had to go to through an approval process to put up the piece. She said that the process started with her proposal, which lead to help from her professor to forward the proposal and even get approval from President Ross. McMullen also had to communicate with the grounds and maintenance crews for the install and protection of her piece for the day.

Although Caitlyn’s style of art is interactive, she also draws on her spare time to keep her art skills up. She hopes to create more interactive art soon.