This is a second attempt to portray a pair of maples growing (for now at least) on 19th Ave in Seattle’s Central District. The first (Power Struggle, 2014) used a tunnel-like one point perspective to include City Light poles, trees reduced to wooden verticals recruited from our forests to support the energy needed to keep humans comfortable and informed. Implicitly, these de-nuded trees witness the impact of harvesting timber to meet human needs. By their side, living maples display the development of trees recruited to satisfy our taste for shade and décor and contorted as a result of conditions determined by human convenience. Their ability to survive in competition with both their defunct cousins and our demands for energy produced the remarkable shapes the painter studied as “plastic values.”
This 2018 painting, with its frontal perspective and the painter’s choice to omit the power lines, evokes these giant living trees sharing space with human habitations, as well as with each other in what appears to be a relationship akin to our interest in the challenge of dropping a ball through a hoop.
Richard Powers’ new novel Overstory cites a long list of aboreal behaviors shared with humans. According to one review, “They breathe, eat, have sex, give gifts, communicate, learn, remember and record the important events in their lives ...”
Can trees play? Does Yeats’ “great rooted blossomer” take pleasure in its dance?