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Can you imagine a world without trees? Try for a second to picture that. Now banish the thought, because Gallery Kayafas has just mounted a large, multi-media group exhibit (predominantly photographs, though) that expresses the profound physical and psychological impact of trees on our lives. Trees II is exceptional not only for the beauty of individual pieces but for the multitude of imaginative interpretations and techniques celebrating these earthly treasures. The show will be on view through July 28th, 2018, with an Artists’ Reception on First Friday, July 6th, 2018 from 5:30 – 8:30pm.
The staying power of trees is highlighted in a broad range of formal studies, from Andrew Young’s precise and softly hued Woodburytypes dating back to the 1870’s to contemporary artists who embrace archival techniques. The wet-plate collodion ambrotypes by N.W. Gibbons possess a deep, dark luxuriance while William Franson’s intimate 4”x5” cyanotype studies of Appleton Farms in Ipswich are exquisite in their delicacy and tonal range.
In even the most formal studies, framing and composition create intriguing narratives. Frank Armstrong’s glimpse of the expansive Eldorado National Forest through the close-range sculptural branches of three pine sentries personalizes the vastness of the valley. Gus Kayafas expresses poignant symbolism in his arrangement of a statue to the fallen and a sprinkling of lone trees amid crisscrossing paths and roads in his wide-angle composition of the Gettysburg Battlefield. The intertwined tangle of silhouetted branches soaring upward toward a deep blue sky in the foreground of Greg Heins’ “Riverside Drive” contrast with an old, sunlit apartment building in the background as he draws an apt analogy between the interconnectedness of both natural and built habitats.
Certain compositions support very personal interpretations. Bruce Myren’s gracefully stalwart Washington Elm and Peter Kayafas’ bold Grecian monolith seem decidedly autobiographical. The twisted, textured trunk of Jack Lueders-Booth’s tree easily becomes a woman’s torso while Jerry Uelsmann’s darkroom-crafted print of an abandoned house rooted strongly to the earth declares the importance of home.
Shape-shifting takes a humorous turn in Jonathan Gitelson’s lovely artist book and series of diptychs “Haircuts for Trees” scrutinizing the rather unbelievable large-scale grooming of mountaintop forests. By contrast, Judy Haberl’s diminutive topiary studies made at the Levens Hall Gardens in England are a charming collection of delightful shapes, showcasing an even more drastic human desire to mold our environment. Jesse Burke puts a fine point on the human prerogative over forestation with his affecting, colorful contrast between newly harvested lumber and his marveling young daughter in “Lumberjack.”
The intersection of humans and trees is imaginatively explored in the vibrant and dynamic road-trip juxtapositions by Karl Baden, Bruce Cratsley’s ghostly Central Park viewed through window reflections and Frank Egloff’s metaphorical portrait constructed from two separate prints. Yoav Horesh’s 45-minute time-lapse photograph of a Rosh Hashana dinner is a lively and symbolic expression of our erratic relationship with the revered and utilitarian tree.
One of strengths of this large and varied exhibit is its delightful variety of viewpoints, from classics like Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Lee Friedlander to young contemporaries like Christine Collins, whose fallen magnolia petals embody the spirit of fleeting beauty and Emily Belz whose lyrical triptych sings the with essence of trees (below). The many photographs are artfully interspersed with complementary prints, paintings and sculptures, including the enchanting, hand-carved twig figures by Joseph Wheelwright (1948-2016) that grace the entry to this refreshing summer treat (feature image).
For more information about this exhibit, go to: http://www.gallerykayafas.com/
Feature Image: Installation view of Trees II group exhibit now on view at Gallery Kayafas in Boston’s SoWa arts district (photo courtesy Gallery Kayafas).