The Last Tree
The Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo NY, September 2018 – February 2017
“What do you imagine the islander was thinking when he chopped down the last tree?” Anthropologist Jared Diamond posed this question while discussing Easter Island as a culture that demolished its resources with no forethought. The Island, once forested and thriving, is now a barren lump with a poverty economy supported by tourism.
The cavalier, and frequently dangerous, attitude of powerful forces toward our environment is the impetus for my new installation — “The Last Tree”— that speaks to societies and their collapse.
Mr. Diamond aptly states:
“By now the meaning of Easter Island for us should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today, again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources.”
Easter Island dynamically portends our environmental crises. My question is: At one point do we realize our self-destruction?
Hair is a signature in my work for its intrinsic links to DNA and its endearing symbolism. Scarred and stitched textures, transformed from the silk organza I stain, metaphorically mimic surfaces, whether ours or natures. The organza-clad stumps, and roots in these works are stuffed with human hair, a symbiotic link to hair living beyond death, and a collective binder for mortality.
In the installation, the world’s recognized countries, 193 in total, are symbolized in a like number of fabricated stumps encircled in fabric roots. A lone last tree, isolated and stark, rises in the desolate plain of barrenness. The video looms above this graveyard, portending of what will be. Its rhythmic chopping is mesmeric in its meter and enhanced by the sound track created by Lin Culbertson. The Last Tree speaks to a holocaust of sorts, humans destroying a vital part of themselves. Curator Midori Yoshimoto states the work is “a cautionary requiem for humanity.”