Rochester's Big Trees
Some of my best friends have been trees. My brothers and I had a couple
of “stations” in the tree in the backyard when we grew up.
That tree was big enough to accommodate all three of us and when we were
ready it would take off, being our rocket ship in the age of Captain
Video. Or I was a cowboy. In the alley a couple of blocks away there
was a stump that was my secret retreat, also a rocket if I remember correctly,
but with better controls and much faster.
In the 1970s I did a series of landscapes at night that featured parks,
golf courses, and cemeteries, and trees played a major role although
they were not really the subject. I did get to know some of the trees
in Highland Park and Mt. Hope Cemetery quite well and still visit them
I have had trees on my list of things that I wanted to do for several
years and then saw the Speilberg film “Poltergeist”, where
the little boy’s worst fear comes true, the tree outside his bedroom
window turns into a monster and attacks at night. In the Australian film “Sweetie” the
heroine, Kay, says that trees scare her because they have human powers.
Several years ago the NY Times ran an article about the National Park
Service survey of the “Big Trees” in the United States. They
listed the biggest tree of each specie and provided the location by county
and state. I discovered that Rochester has a significant number of state
champion trees and one recently identified National Champion. And the
Landmark Society provided a list of Rochester’s Famous and Historic
I like to think about Edward Steichen photographing the Shad-Blow Tree
outside his window in Connecticut. He recorded it throughout the seasons,
at different times of day, in various weather conditions for several
years, described in his book “Steichen, A Life in Photography”.
When I first read that I presumed that the challenge was photographic,
but now I think that he was really struggling with the tree to create
a print that matched his image of it. I have attempted to make prints
that capture the spirit of the tree.
"Rochester's Big Trees" was exhibited in 1990 and 1991 at
American Association of University Women (AAUW), Rochester, NY; Gallery
34, Community College of the Finger Lakes, Canandaigua, NY; Remington
Art Museum, Ogdensburg, NY; Jefferson Community College, Watertown, NY;
Link Gallery, City Hall, Rochester, NY; and Spectrum Gallery, Light Impressions,
I would like to thank Hilland Knapp, retired head of the Parks Department;
Helen Foster, Horticulturist for The Landmark Society; and James Atwater,
Arborphile, for helping me identify Rochester’s Big Trees.
The LIFT grant has allowed me to set aside a block of time and actually
begin what I had been thinking about for so long. This show is dedicated
to the wonderful trees in the area, the natural treasures that enhance
our world, and to the people who care for them.
(This exhibition is made possible with public funds from Monroe County
and the New York State Council on the Arts. In Monroe County the LIFT
Program is administered by Arts for Greater Rochester.)