Since 2014, the City of Chicago has sponsored the Chicago Tree Art Project, thru a collaboration between the Chicago Park District and Chicago Sculpture International (see www.chicagotreeproject.org). The program reclaims dead trees and turns them into vibrant works of art in the city parks. What started as 10 converted trees, has now expanded to more than 25. Chicago joins several cities globally that sponsors such conversions, including Xenia, OH, Royal Oak MI, and in Shijiazhuang, China, where a young artist paints on live trees (see http://twistedsifter.com/2013/03/tree-hole-paintings-by-wang-yue/).
Chicago’s tree art sculptures range from simple, vibrantly painted cluster of trees in the 31st Street Harbor , to the more complex and ornate, such as the Sankofa Tree in the Burnham Park bird migratory field (see…Urban Trail and Gathering Space – 5* Pix ), with plenty in between. The trees are sprinkled throughout the city — sightings include lakefront parks on North and South Lake Shore Drive and inland parks throughout the city — they bring me joy each time I spot one I haven’t seen before!
Today’s images are from a variety of photography outings where I spotted one of the tree art installations, or a tree that I unofficially grandfathered into the project. Hope you enjoy these 5* images.
- Fishing Eagle (2): Sculptor/artist Jim Long created this strikingly detailed eagle, located just south the historic Jackson Park pavilion just south of 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive. The day I “found” this gem, I had walked to the beach and the Jackson Park lagoon to photograph another event. As I turned around to walk back, I noticed the eagle towering above me. How could I not be captivated by the piercing yellow eyes, the claws tightly holding a fish? By the upward sweep of its imposing wings? The highly-detailed feathers? I was definitely captivated.
- Flock: Right across the street from the eagle is sculptor Margot McMahon’s art installation featuring a flock of bluebirds. Captured in the winter, with neighboring trees also bare, the bluebirds stood out against the gray sky.
- Heron (2): The Heron and its colleague, the Wolf are sculptures in in Nicholson Park, a small park in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. When I visited this park, I met nearby residents who had chatted with the artist Jim Long as he created the sculptures. They recounted their excitement in seeing the creatures emerge from the dormant trees. In this image, you can see that the colorful Heron has found its dinner. Up close, you can almost see the feathers sticking out from the surface of the bird.
- The Wolf: The wolf, according to the stories I heard, is staring at the moon. Since I found the park on a bright Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t confirm the placement and angle, but given what I know about the trajectory of the moon in this area, I can definitely believe it. Unlike the Heron, this sculpture is bare, blending in with the neighboring trees. Its muscles are carved into the tree – he seems to balance delicately on the engraved tree trunk, looking upward.
- Basket Weaving: These woven baskets adorn a tree in Hyde Park as well, overlooking the outdoor tennis courts. As many times as I have walked by the tennis courts, I seemed to miss this artwork by Karen Gubitz. But I love the delicate green baskets on this tree and also the more colorful ones featured in a “Bike the Drive post here (see Fresh Take on Chicago’s Bike The Drive — 5* Pix).
- Reaching the Sky: From time to time, you see a tree that is starkly beautiful on its own, and is not carved, painted, or otherwise embellished. So it was with this tree. The bark had been removed, and its surface smoothed. That’s it. The beauty of this dead tree, still rooted to the ground, but reaching upward to the sky, especially on a day with such a beautiful sky… wow!
The Chicago Tree Art Project, similar programs in other cities and individually commissioned efforts, all show that we don’t have to discard the trees if they have reached the end of their lives. Mature trees in our city have been ravaged by the infestations of Emerald ash borers and the Asian Long Horned Beetle and other maladies, leading to thousands of replaced trees – we are so glad that Chicago, with the help of local artists have found a way to reclaim these trees, either in their natural, but petrified state, or embellished to make a grand, artistic statement! Hope you enjoy these 5* images (and others to come as I discover their location).