The Trees

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Regarding the TREES…

The morning of September 11 I was sitting on my desk, next to my bed. When I lay in bed I could see the towers but, that morning the blinds were down because I was working on the computer. I had been hearing the sirens going by, on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) but I thought it was a car accident (Not uncommon). At one point I picked up the phone to make a call and the lines were dead. That’s when I realized something was wrong. By the time I turned the TV and realized what was happening, the first tower had already fallen. When I looked out the window what I saw was the gigantic cloud of debris moving towards us, in Brooklyn. We were right on it’s path. I ran around our loft shutting down all the windows. When the could hit, I could not see the other side of the street. Two days later I hopped on my bicycle and rode around South Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. A layer of white dust and debris covered every surface. There were fragments of paper everywhere: checks, accounting records, fragments of magazines, envelopes, fragments of phone books, etc. I instinctually started picking them up and, stashing them in a bag. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but I figured maybe someday I would make something. The bag sat in the corner of my studio for 5 years until the exhibition Paradise According to Milton came along. I felt this was a serious and respectful enough project to use that material for. The first thing I did was write down all the names that appeared in the fragments. I then checked them with the list of deceased from 9/11. I didn’t want these art pieces to bring any more pain to the survivors. None of the names in my papers appeared in that list. I then ironed them; which made the studio smell like 9/11. The papers were obviously impregnated with particles that were released by the steam of the iron. It was creepy, and painful to remember. I had already in mind that I would build The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as a collage with the papers. Then I had the epiphany to have the negative become The Tree of Life.That’s how the two light boxes came to be.

For the prints, I scanned the collage, and we printed them full background on to rag paper. Then we silk-screened the trees in white and, while the paint was still wet we “flocked” (covered the surface) it with tiny glass beads. The idea was that the trees would reflect light in a similar way as in the light boxes. The result was like a street reflector at night.