Baby Trees in NYC, 2012

Acrylic on panel, 12x9" (30.4x22.8 cm), 2012

This work displays a series of portraits of young street-trees in the city, most located in Washington Heights and Inwood.With this project I explore the relation between the city community and its trees; for example, it seems people feel the need to “ornate” the trees by placing all sorts of objects on them or their sustaining poles – anything from flyers to walking sticks to gloves is visible. To contribute something of my own, as the winter was approaching, I dressed the trees in “sweaters” made of my old socks. Moreover, because most of the trees in my work were planted as part of the Million Trees NYC project, they often have plastic bracelets with serial numbers or tags indicating the kind of tree it is. It is as though the trees are a product in a store. In such an urban environment, the baby trees stand vulnerable in squares of soil surrounded by cement. Much like myself and many others in the city, the baby trees are new comers, trying to make it in a huge and alienating metropolis. The monochromatic backgrounds of the paintings make the trees’ environments partly fantastic, thereby exploring the interaction between representation and abstraction.

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© 2012-19 Shifi Rathaus

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