Followers know that earlier this week, and with the help of stalwart friends, I installed Tree Futures in Seattle’s Carkeek Park as part of Heaven and Earth IV: Rootbound. Imagine my distress when I returned with my family the next evening to discover it all cut down, in a pile at the bottom of one of the trees. Certainly in that position, it did look like refuse.
To be sure, during the installation period there was no signage announcing that these objects around the trees were sanctioned Art and not an elaborate form of illicit Tagging. One of the beauties of the exhibit is that both casual and purposeful walkers share a sense of sudden discovery (though there is a map on the Rootbound site).
Once I got over the initial shock, I realized I owed it to all of the friends, colleagues, non-profits and businesses who had donated time, money and encouragement to re-install. Most of the elements had been untied rather than destroyed — though the cords holding the gloves had been slashed into many pieces. It was hard not to read this as rage — the most severe critic I’ve yet encountered!
So 4 days after the original install, I was back — this time with my ever-patient spouse Steve, the exhibit curator David Francis, and fellow artist, sculptor Peppé. The weather was not so cooperative. Seattle’s rainy reputation is indeed based in reality. It was heartwarming and validating that during this rainy task, three neighbors came by and asked what had happened. One had even come back in the interim with his camera. They all expressed dismay at the vandalism, pleasure in the installation and support. So now Tree Futures is back where you will find it on the exhibit map, albeit a little higher up the trees. When the weather improves, I’ll get new photos of the re-installation posted, which includes two new wraps — a veneer collar (for all the trees used in construction and consumables) and blackberry canes (for the threat of invasive species).
My friend Pati helped me work through the experience: someone saw only garbage on “their” turf, presumably without contemplating the possibility that it was a sanctioned activity in a community space. This destruction is consistent with our all-too-human trait of acting without consideration of others or a realization of what we don’t understand. One neighbor declared it an act of ignorance. This particular work represented forests; it’s humans who destroy and protect forests.