Renewal was a commissioned work completed in the summer of 2022. It’s made from ash wood ethically sourced from fallen trees in the woods around our home on Lafayette Lane, Clifton, Cincinnati. The cut and charred ash wood now has a second life in the form of abstracted maple seeds.
My idea for the artwork is influenced by the scientist Suzanne Simard and her work on Kin Selection and the Mother Tree Project. The sculpture connects the family life of trees with that of humans. In healthy woodlands, ‘mother trees’ recognize their young and send them water, carbon and nutrients through their roots and the mycorrhizal network, nourishing them in the shade. Young saplings wait patiently for parent trees to fall so they can fill the gap in the canopy and grow high into the sunlight. In our woodland the natural cycle of trees is being disrupted by invasive beetles prematurely felling the tallest Ash trees. Invasive plants and the overabundance of deer prevent seeds from sprouting and saplings from growing. Scientists estimate that in 30 to 50 years maples will no longer grow in this area as they migrate north due to climate change.
Yet seeds hold so much hope for the future. Some seeds only open and sprout within the heat of a forest fire, relying on burning and destruction to create new life. I hope that the renewal and burning of a dead ash tree and its transformation into a sculpture lights a spark in us from which we can plant and nourish seeds for a brighter future.