Monday, March 1, 2010

Trees. PelVis.

My Trees of My City multimedia installation is about dormancy, death and decay in urban deciduous trees. Or, it's about love, loss and memory. Or, it's about reincarnation. Or, it's about the weltanshauung of the american grey squirrel...

Sick of cowering with my cameras in the house during several days of precipitation, I put on my foul weather gear, strap on the HDSLR, tripod and digital audio recorder and hike two miles to Norumbega park, a hilly, wooded area in the Lakes District of the Charles River.

As I walk I am visited by memories of my late older brother, Pedro -- a lover of woods, birds, stars and all things non-human. Gone now twenty years, I can almost see him towering over me, circa 1963 -- me 9, him 15 -- naming the passing flora and fauna as we hike among the foothills of Anchorage.

The memory-Pedro is with me now in Norumbega park. "Look at that outasight Beech," he says, "a centurion acting as GuarDian to the entrance of the park." "But it's snowing and I don't want to get my camera wet," I  whine. "Don't be a punk. Are you an artist or not?" 

Embarrassed, I take off my rain slicker, undo the shoulder pack, remove the camera from its water-resistant case, ignore the wet snow all over it, raise the viewfinder to my eyes, mutter a prayer to the electronic circuit gods and squeeze off two exposures.

A golden retriever named Cooper looks at me quizzically, wondering if I'm aware that DSLR's go to the repair shop in the sky after getting wet. "Talk to Pedro," I say to the canine, who wanders away, shaking his head. 

His owners, a woman and her teenaged son, also look askance at me with my raincoat and gloves off, photographing a tree during snowfall. I weakly say "hello" as the woman edges her son away. Cooper is already long gone.

I've mostly avoided shooting Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) in  this project up until now. That's because the site of these elephantine-grey, voluptuously-bulging, pachyderm-peaceful, burgundy-leaved beauties makes me swoon. I'm infatuated with them, plain and simple. if I'd started photographing these yard pinups first, the rest of the project would have been in jeopardy. You understand.

There are other great Fagus grandifolia around, including a spectacular stand in a tiny little park in Brookline; a magnificent specimen in the Arboretum; one sexy beast on my street; a cutie in Newton Centre and several in Waban. 

Now that the more common Norway Maples, Elms and Lindens are getting their due, I suppose I can be trusted to leer at a Beech or two. But it's a slippery slope...

I trudge up hill and over dale, coming in sight of what appears to be a partially frozen pond, and am suddenly transfixed by what looks like a very large fossilized human PelVis lying in the middle of the trail, complete with a shattered femur still in the hip socket.

I swear on a stack of Nikons that I do not stage any of these scenes or move any trees to get these portraits. This exquisitely rotting piece is literally just lying there, waiting for me to photograph it. I image it from all sides. Each angle tells a different story. They'll all be in the Trees of My City installation. Thanks, Pedro. ###

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