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Cross Section Remnants – an art project about tree slab monuments in Washington State

La Conner Tree, June, 2015

La Conner Tree, June, 2015

La Conner Tree Rubbing, detail, in artist’s studio.

Spruce log in Forks, Wa, March 2015

Spruce log in Forks, Wa

An iconic feature of many regional, state and national parks is an upended cross-section of an evergreen tree, usually protected from sun and rain by a rough-hewn gazebo. These are scattered throughout Washington state, reminders of vast forests that once covered the Pacific Northwest. As monuments, they speak to both our reverence for these behemoth trees and our need to catalog and collect remnants of dwindling resources.

Over the next several years I plan to seek out all of the tree sections on public lands in Washington State, to create rubbings of each specimen. My goal is to capture the abstract beauty of these slowly disintegrating hulks.

Many of these monuments have interpretive signs and the tree rings are often used as a timeline, marking dates such as Lincoln’s assassination, or when Columbus landed in the new world. Though we like to embellish the rings with cultural references, they contain a wealth of knowledge about the past. Just like ice cores, or soil profiles, tree rings are analyzed by scientists to determine the local climate conditions the tree grew in, year to year. Dendrochronology is used by paleoecologists, archaeologists and to calibrate radiocarbon dating.

As an art installation, the rubbings can be viewed as historic and scientific artifacts, as well as symbols of loss and transformation. In a group, the large rounds become phantoms of ancient forests. The lines within each rubbing are a script that describes events throughout the life of each tree. The marks offer a portal to imagine deep time and change.

 

Leary Slough Tree, which was radiocarbon dated to be over 3600 years old.

Leary Slough Tree, which was radiocarbon dated to be over 3600 years old.