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Art Imitating Life

Posted on November 12, 2015

For the grand reopening of Washington, D.C.’s Renwick Gallery, artist John Grade set out to do something grand.

He wanted to bring a 40-foot tree into the gallery. He had just the tree in mind—a 150-year-old hemlock located in the Cascade Mountains (east of the artist’s Seattle home). About the same age as the Renwick itself, and a size that would just fit into the gallery space if hung parallel to the floor, the grand old hemlock was ideal for the site-specific project Grade had in mind.

But as a lover of nature whose works play on the ideas of natural degradation and man’s impact on the environment, Grade was not about to chop the hemlock down. As an artist who prizes handcrafted detail, he also was not interested in using any digital tools to copy the tree’s dimensions. He had a much more elegant—if far more complicated—plan.

He hired arborists to work with his team; who roped up the tree, setting up a pulley system to haul up buckets of water, so that a handcrafted plaster cast of the tree could be rendered—all while ensuring that the magnificent tree was carefully protected throughout the process.

Read the rest at Smithsonian.

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