The Fussy Eye: Cycles and Sections

Maybe it’s because of BAM’s ongoing biennial show, Knock on Wood, or because all the trees are sprouting leaves and blossoms, but that material is very much on my mind this spring. (Oh, there’s also John Grade’s tree-cast arboreal carapace Middle Fork hanging at MadArt in SLU.) Another such timber creation lies on the floor in Flat Fall, which Cornish professor Ruth Marie Tomlinson made from a downed tree in Two Dot, Montana (great place name, btw, which is based on an old cattle brand), where she keeps a studio. Apparently the old cottonwood came down in a windstorm; then Tomlinson meticulously salvaged and sectioned it, numbering the pieces, and later trucked it over to Seattle for supine reassembly. Now covering most the of the gallery floor (step carefully!), the 337 component pieces are a kind of memorial for the once-living tree. While Grade’s art represents a year’s growth of a hemlock (through fabricated with a lattice of cedar), Tomlinson hews to the original—or rather, she’s hewed the original. Middle Fork will eventually be returned to biodegrade at the site of its inspiration, while Tomlinson’s could end up anywhere (even back in Two Dot). Sections might be sold, I suppose, like giant coasters for you and 336 oversized guests, but Flat Fall couldn’t really be recycled into furniture, since cottonwood is so flimsy and cheap. A gallery portrait shows Tomlinson resting in the crook of the living cottonwood. That was one phase of the tree’s life cycle; art is the next; and its final traces might take the form of woodsmoke wafting from a chimney. (Tomlinson will give a talk on the piece at 6 p.m. Thurs., March 19.) Method Gallery, 106 Third Ave. S. (Tashiro Kaplan Building), 223-8505, Free. Noon–5 p.m. Fri.–Sat. Ends April 11.

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