work > The Woulds

the Woulds at Catharine Clark Gallery

The Woulds features a forest of tree-like sculptures made of wood, mirror, and glass and populated with ceramic sparrows. Through an immersive installation of sculpture, recorded birdsong, and refracted and reflected video and light, The Woulds offers viewers a chance to enter a space in which narratives about the ethereal and scientific worlds are intertwined.

For the museum exhibition, each artist was given the book Leaves From the Garden of Eden by Howard Schwartz and asked to interpret a story. Forests and trees figure strongly in many of the stories. In myth and legend across diverse cultures, forests often represent the unknown, a place that remains wild and untamed by humankind. Protagonists may journey through a forest to fulfill a quest or mission, to achieve enlightenment, or to battle internal or external demons. Myths take us to forests as places of reflection and potential for learning and attaining higher planes, but they also hold potential for harboring beasts and monsters. Forests can be seen as a metaphor for the subconscious. A protagonist is always changed by his or her journey through a forest.

The forest is not an inert landscape in these stories -- trees themselves have power and souls, and forests are attributed with intent -- sublime, benign or malignant. Nor is the forest an inert landscape as seen through science, but instead a complicated network of photosynthesis, growth, reproduction, life, and decay. As humans we see one story, another is visible to birds, who see different spectrum of light, and another is experienced by the trees themselves, which have recently been shown to communicate through fungal networks between their roots.

In some of the legends that Howard Schwartz collected from across the Jewish Diaspora trees are considered resting places for souls, functioning as transitional places for souls traveling between creation, life, and after-life. Souls are described as birdlike, using earthly trees as stopovers on their way to their bodies, accompanied to Earth by birdsong from sparrows who see them on their way.

The Woulds is a forest seen through the eyes of these sparrows. We imagine how a forest appears to a bird that can see between worlds, a forest where the trees have souls and exist in both physical and spiritual planes, a forest where the trees -- with their longer view of history -- project possible life stories onto the descending souls who, in turn, reflect these stories into the forest at large, creating a living canopy of potential life outcomes. This forest can be seen as a space of reverence and magic where birds see souls and trees branch between worlds, or a place of science, where fungal networks of communication and alternative light spectrum are revealed.