Tree sculpture?
July 27, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

This is a long-shot--does anyone have any info on an artist who used nature/trees to make art? Maybe in the 70s?

This has been bugging me for years, seriously, and I hope someone can help! OK, back in like 2000 I took an art history class at Penn State. One day our teacher walked us to some random spot on campus and said "Where's the art?" Eventually it came out that some artist back in like the 70s who was part of some natural art movement had planted a row of trees on campus. The trees were planted too close together so that some would crowd/kill the others, as a comment on natural selection. Originally there had been ten trees and when I saw them, there were five (three pretty good-sized, two little spindly ones). It pissed me off a lot for some reason and clearly stuck with me.

I've done my best to track down any information on this piece, but can't find anything online and queries to Penn State's ask-a-librarian chat have gone nowhere (they have no idea what I'm talking about).

Seriously, do you know who this artist might be, or anything about this art movement?
posted by leesh to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
No ideas about the art itself, but have you tried e-mailing the professor directly? If he/she is no longer at Penn State, you might try contacting the administrative staff in the art department to see if they have a forwarding address.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2011

The tree circus guy?
posted by kellyblah at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2011

Crap, noticed it was PA not CA, wrong state!
posted by kellyblah at 7:26 AM on July 27, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:27 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Giuseppe Penone does neat things with trees. I don't know if he did the neat things with your trees, though.
posted by phunniemee at 7:27 AM on July 27, 2011

Oop, probably not -- Goldsworthy is a Brit. Fascinating work, though. There's a wonderful documentary about him.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:28 AM on July 27, 2011

might want to contact this person
Art History 001S
Dr. Alissa Walls Mazow
“First-Year Seminar-- 2:30-3:45 TuTh
Ecological Emergences in American Art and Architecture”

In his 1969 piece Asphalt Rundown, American artist Robert Smithson poured asphalt from a dump truck down a hillside outside of Rome, Italy. His piece served as a harbinger of art movements that would come after Pop and after Minimalism. No longer did artists see the gallery as their sole exhibition venue. The earth itself became essential to the work of art. Smithson’s work—along with that of Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Nancy Holt, and others—became part of a movement known as Earthworks. Their pieces, however, did not initially find a locus within the environmental movement. Rather, initial environmental concerns included air and water quality, energy conservation, and species and habitat protection. Since that time, sustainability discourses have ranged from advocating substantial resource reduction to reconsidering waste itself as vital to the maintenance of life. This course will consider the discourses of green within the visual arts. Is going green a utopian vision of a tree-hugging few or can the environmental movement find relevance in the wider public? And if so, can artists and architects play a role in defining such a vision? We will investigate, in addition to art and architecture, relevant scientific, environmental, and other ecologically-centered texts.
No Prerequisite (open to all majors)
posted by fozzie33 at 7:47 AM on July 27, 2011

I highly doubt Goldsworthy. His stuff usually doesn't interrupt nature, but is built with nature, and when the piece falls apart, that's it. He wouldn't do something deliberate to hurt the nature he works with. I'm not sure who the artist was, but this sounds like it falls under the environmental art movement popular in the 70s. The linked wiki may lead you to the artist you're looking for, but as I'm looking at the list, no one rings a bell. There are, however, some who aren't familiar to me.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:48 AM on July 27, 2011

Patrick Dougherty?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:50 AM on July 27, 2011

(I assume the professor fozzie33 references is from Penn State???) You could also ask that professor to forward your request to the rest of the department.
posted by jroybal at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2011

yeah, they have a department website,
posted by fozzie33 at 7:52 AM on July 27, 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I don't remember the name of my professor (come on, it was eleven years ago) and when I've tried to email the department in the past I've not gotten a response (it is kind of a weird question, I guess). fozzie13's professor suggestion looks promising--do you think professors mind getting emails from random alumni who they don't actually know?

And that wikipedia page is exactly the movement we talked about in class--I'm going to go read it in detail--thanks, TBSS.
posted by leesh at 7:56 AM on July 27, 2011

leesh: do you think professors mind getting emails from random alumni who they don't actually know?

I think a prof would be pretty happy that something from a lecture they gave over a decade ago stuck with a student enough that they haven't stopped thinking about it since, even if it wasn't because the student thought about it positively.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2011

Probably not the artist in question but most possibly a lead:
Alan Sonfist, who made a piece called
Time Landscape in NYC, which is a historically accurate landscape representing Manhattan in the 17th century.
posted by suedehead at 8:56 AM on July 27, 2011

do you think professors mind getting emails from random alumni who they don't actually know?

No, if the email is brief and asks a specific and easily answerable question. And if it comes with a "this has always stuck with me" or similar, "my education made an ongoing difference" kind of sentiment.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2011

Would it be this? '30 Oaks' by German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, installed on the UMBC campus. I can't find more information so sorry about that.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:12 AM on July 27, 2011

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