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The Daily Plant : Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Arboreal" Offers a Chance to Reflect on Storm

The Arsenal Gallery revealed its new exhibit, Arboreal, at around 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 16—about the same time that two tornados and a microburst tore through New York City. As the Parks Department and New Yorkers attempt to clean up and move on from the unexpected destruction, both Arboreal and an upcoming Uncommon Ground lecture called "The House of the Forest" offer a chance to reflect on those leafy beings lining our streets and our parks.

The exhibition, which was called "an artistic love letter to trees" by Time Out New York, serves as a fitting tribute to the trees lost in the storm. Jennifer Lantzas, Parks' Public Art Coordinator, said she felt the group show might strike a chord with residents still reeling from the tree damage left in the wake of the tornados.

"Following the storm, I believe more people have realized that their trees are vital and devoted neighbors," Lantzas told the Plant, "and are in fact mourning their destruction."

Arboreal features the work of four artists—Barbara Andrus, Avy Claire, Nancy Manter, and Adele Ursone—all of whom are residents of both Maine and New York, which Lantzas says has influenced how they each experience trees in rural and urban settings.

Still, said Lantzas, "all of these artists have distinct voices." Andrus, for one, creates site-specific sculptures made of found branches and twigs to reconstruct the forest experience in a different setting. Her work uses the most fragile and yet fertile part of the tree, the apical, which is the regenerative tip of branches. Her sculptures are inspired by the concept of birth and regrowth—a pertinent theme as we move on from the storm and into fall, which is planting season for the Million Trees NYC Initiative.

Claire uses written transcriptions of often disturbing contemporary news reports to build visual armatures of trees of beauty and poetry. Her most recent work in the gallery includes the writings of Rudolf Steiner on bees and pollination, as well as news on solar energy.

Manter photographs trees through marks in the ice, snow, and rain droplets on her car windshield, layering her imagery to signify our imprints on place and nature. Her photographs are not manipulated in any way. Ursone focuses on the intimate details of city tree branches, and the close crops on her compositions produce focused views of the trees that are usually surrounded by constant motion and sound in the urban environment.

The gallery is hosting an Uncommon Ground lecture at 6:00 pm on October 5 that dovetails well with the exhibit. "The House of the Forest" will feature a discussion on how we may "rebuild" the relationship between humans and trees. Andrea Read, poet and founder of the Newforest Institute, which seeks to restore mutually sustaining relationships between people and their land, will moderate a talk between Dr. P. Timon McPhearson, an Assistant Professor of Urban Ecology at the New School, and Mike Feller, Chief Naturalist at Parks & Recreation.

The talk will "explore the symbolic and physical relationships between people and nature in the context of trees" and the importance of a "renewed sense of emotional and spiritual connectedness to the forest" in the twenty-first century.
Lantzas hopes that visitors to both the gallery and the discussion on October 5 will use the space to reflect on the recent storm.

"This exhibition is the artistic expression of something we all share," Lantzas said, "and that’s a real adoration of and reliance on trees—both physically and spiritually, and especially as urbanites. This artwork reminds us of just how resilient and complex our environment really is."

The Arsenal Gallery is located on the third floor of the Arsenal, the NYC Parks & Recreation headquarters, in Central Park, on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for holidays. Admission is free. To reserve a seat for the Uncommon Grounds lecture on October 5 at 6:00 pm, call 212-360-1324.


"It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play."
Dizzy Gillespie
(1917 - 1993)

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