Category Archives: Art
Naked treehugger Julianne Skai Arbor lends support to the protection of old growth on Vancouver Island
Tragically, people are not connecting our everyday modern consumptive lifestyle with the true cost we are paying for our wood and paper products: habitat destruction and fragmentation, soil erosion, hydrologic disruption, water siltation, wildfire hazards, and extermination of thousands of forest and riparian plant, animal and fungi species. Clearcutted forests are notorious for not being able to recover to their original structure and composition. This all equals the “uglification” and death of Life. We must change our modern value system and our forestry practices worldwide to focus on ecological system integrity.
Canada’s largest Spruce (Picea sitchensis), is The San Juan Sitka Spruce (and also the second largest Spruce in the world). It was with this tree that I did a photo shoot in the rain around the 38 ft (11.6 m) circumference, gazing up at the 205 ft (62.5 m) top. Although this wasn’t my first Sitka Spruce encounter, this was my first making love with a tree in the rain, and it was cold but magnificent embracing the wet moss!
See also the local newspaper article linked in her post, “The naked tree-hugger makes her way to Port Renfrew,” and the artist statement on TreeGirl’s website.
Evidently in pre-digital days, landscape architects would use rubber stamps to add trees to blueprints. Tom Turner at Gardenvisit.com shares “a scan of a very high-class set of tree stamps” which, as one commenter aptly put it, looks like a box of tree chocolates. It’s almost too cool for words.
What are tree rings if not a record? So was the thinking, it seems, behind German artist Bartholomäus Traubeck’s Years installation, which consists of “Modified turntable, computer, vvvv, camera, acrylic glass, veneer, approx. 90x50x50 cm.” Check out the video (also embedded above). Traubeck explains,
A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.
Thanks to Treehugger for the link. I like their conclusion:
Like any great composition, the sounds produced from reading tree-rings are both aesthetically beautiful while at the same time a strangely ethereal glimpse into the otherwise silent life of our planet’s most essential organisms. And likewise, when presented in such a visceral way, it becomes difficult to imagine Earth’s pristine forests as merely places where life can thrive, and not as quiet musicians recording, in their own way, what it means to be alive.
Four days ago, Traubeck uploaded some additional footage:
Continuing with today’s theme of almost-fresh tree news from New York City, a friend sent me this link to a blog post from something called the BMW Guggenheim Lab about a poem trail through an old-growth forest in the New York Botanical Garden. I thought at first this might be hyperbole, but the Wikipedia bears it out: “Sightseers can easily spend a day admiring the serene cascade waterfall, wetlands and a 50-acre (20 ha) tract of original, old-growth New York forest, never logged, containing oaks, American beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees — some more than two centuries old.”
Anyway, it seems that they recently finished refurbishing the trails through this tract, and asked artist Jon Cotner, the author of the piece, to “do something poetry-related on site” in conjuction with the Poetry Society of America. He wanted something that would actively engage visitors and lead them to pay closer attention to the forest around them.
So I “installed” 15 lines pulled from 2,500 years of poetry along a trail through the old-growth forest. Visitors spoke each line (printed on a handout) at specific locations (marked by small orange signs) to which the lines corresponded conceptually or physically. For example, near the start of the self-guided walk, people would recite Pythagoras’s maxim “The wind is blowing; adore the wind” to clear their heads. Or just as the Bronx River came into view, people would recite Gary Snyder’s verse “Under the trees/ under the clouds/ by the river” to grow closer to the landscape. At the final spot, above a waterfall, people said Ch’u Ch’uang’s “Waterfalls, with a sound/ Like rain” to sharpen the auditory sensation.
Walking Poem Forest took about 20 minutes. Several participants had long histories with the Garden. They felt surprised by how intimately they encountered a landscape that had seemed “familiar” or “known.” A bench near the waterfall became an informal classroom, where we discussed their experience. The overwhelming message was that the poetic lines encouraged everyone to slow down, to see and sense more clearly, to inhabit the present more deeply, and to fill with enchantment.
The post includes photos of each spot, evidently taken in November, paired with the corresponding quote. There’s also an audio compliation of visitors reading the lines. Pretty cool!
Doug Savage draws cartoons on sticky notes, scans them, and posts them to his blog, Savage Chickens. Among the many bizarre characters inhabiting his pale yellow world is Tree Astronaut. If you’ve even wondered to yourself, “What would happen if an annoyingly happy tree went into space?” Doug has some ideas.
Did you know that Manhattan’s Washington Square Park had its own blog? Me neither. But the Washington Square Park Blog appears to be a fine exemplar of “hyper-local citizen journalism,” at least by evidenced by a recent post about artist Kristin Jones’ plan for a tree-focused “artistic intervention” on Arbor Day 2013. One tree in each borough of NYC would be designated as the focus of a 24-hour multimedia extravanganza.
The tree she has her eye on for Manhattan is at Washington Square – the famous “Hangman’s Elm” (there seems to be dispute over whether it was actually used for hangings) in the NorthWest corner of the park. I did not realize that tree is 330 years old! Incredible.
Jones and her partner were responsible for “Metronome” – the unique clock (or “artwork/digital timepiece, intended as a modernist meditation on the dissolution of time”) that looms above Union Square on 14th Street.
Of the “Hangman’s Elm,” she says: “All these years this beautiful tree was right under my nose. It makes me angry that I never appreciated it until now.”
For years I’ve been photographing the ever-changing assortment of street art on the Wall at Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen an urban forest of graffiti trees there. Usually, the trees I see outlined on brick walls are painted by shadows, not by spray cans.
From Ian Lunt’s Research Site comes a story about the challenges involved in studying old paintings to learn how Australian forests have changed over the past 150 years. It seems that a 19th-century painter named Eugene von Guérard, fired by Alexander von Humboldt’s plea to artists to paint landscapes, fauna and flora as accurately as possible, resorted to some interesting strategems to make his paintings look especially authentic — and these tweaks present special challenges to modern conservation biologists trying to use his paintings for restoration projects. Most egregiously,
Von Guérard included grass trees in many of his paintings. Not only that, but he repeatedly drew grass-trees in pairs, with the base of their twin trunks obscured behind a shrub or log, as though hiding a large pot plant that he’d carted around the countryside just for this purpose. Indeed, he plonked his pot plant down in almost exactly the same place in his paintings of Tower Hill and the Warrenheip hills (see paintings above).