The Chicago Tree Project (CTP) is a collaborative initiative between the Chicago Park District and Chicago Sculpture International. The CTP is an annual citywide effort to transform sick and dying trees into vibrant public art rather than cutting them down. Using art as a vessel for public engagement, sculptors transform trees into fun and whimsical experiences for the greater Chicago community. Each year, twelve new trees are installed throughout the city. A complete map and more information can be found at www.chicagotreeproject.org
To begin, I can’t thank the community of Palmer Park enough for making this experience so rewarding. I was so warmly welcomed as a visitor to this community. I truly appreciate how each day the residents who use the park spent time talking with me and sharing their observations and ideas! People who walked the park stopped by each morning to chat and view my progress. Individuals who lived on the edge of the park regularly came by and shared their interest and encouragement. From the young children visiting from the daycare on the corner to those who spent the day enjoying the park, I can only hope that you share my enthusiasm and fond memories.
The subject of my art is based on the relationship humans have established with the physical world. Wendell Berry, in his 1989 essay Nature as Measure, writes, “But we know too that nature includes us. It is not a place into which we reach from some safe standpoint outside it.” This quote speaks to the interconnectedness of all that exists; a concept that permeates this sculpture. Within my work I attempt to reconcile our western understanding of separation and domination of the laws of nature with the quite obvious oneness of the world. The urban and sub-urban environments we have built revolve around our social and economic needs, setting up an ever-increasing level of separation. The grid and geometric designs of these environments are reflections of our need to order. We look on with strange fascination at aboriginal cultures and those who retreat from contemporary society to live in remote locales.
The figure, carved into the lower segment of the tree, is a hollow or impression marking the human form, a figure no longer present. The arms of this figure transform into spirals. Doubling back on themselves these spirals ascend the trunk of the tree becoming a double helix, the form of DNA that is shared by all cellular life. The helixes terminate pointing to the leaves of the basswood tree on one side and a pair of bee wings on the other. These carved images are raised rather than hollowed out, as is the human form. The sculpture’s finish is produced naturally through environmental conditions.
The basswood or linden tree, from which this sculpture is carved, produces fragrant flowers from which the honeybee makes a highly flavored honey. This relationship between tree, bee and human has existed for millennia and exhibits the wondrous interconnectedness of all life. This relationship will continue if we remain aware and is the origin of the work’s title: Eternal Connections.