Death In the Desolate

In Charleston, South Carolina, at The Middleton Place, there is an enormous tree my family used to visit. The tree is said to be at least 400 years old, but some believe it to be much older. Looking at it, you can observe steel rods surgically inserted, preventing its massive branches from collapsing. Cement is poured into the voids of the trunk where it has weathered and rotted away. It seems as though it is slowly becoming something inanimate. Something between a living organism and a synthetic body–perhaps something of a sculpture.

The tree re-emerged as a motif in my work as my grandparents’ health started to decline. As the similarities between the tree and their aging bodies became more apparent, the increasingly synthetic tree became a way to think about my relationship to my family and the difficult questions that come with facing the loss of loved ones.

Confronting these questions through my sculptural practice, I seek to create a landscape that exists somewhere between the virtual and the physical. At the center of the work, a life-sized shell, constructed of reclaimed wood, encases a mystery. A casket, a seed, a shelter– its hardened shell and grounded form functions as both a symbol for death, and a site for growth, or potential. Dispersed around the shell and emerging from the earth, on the floor of the gallery, the colorful 3D printed trees evoke new life and energy towards growth and resolution. In the space between the saplings and the shell, I think of their relationship to one another. A site for contemplation of life and death, it reveals a method for coping with the most difficult questions we must ask ourselves; creating a mechanism for processing the final stages of grief as a means to seek optimism.