Sacred Tree Habitat
Child's Bog, a digital capture
“I will build an altar from the broken fragments of my heart.”
—Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid, Poland 1700’s.
This multimedia installation was first going to be called Broken Vessels. I was going to use fallen trees to represent the political brokenness in society. I thought initially that I couldn’t present an ode to nature as I had done with Water Refuge in 2015. The times are too perilous.
Ironically, Sacred Tree Habitat is an ode to nature. I’m not going to stop doing what I love. And yet this show is also a response to brokenness. It is a plea for healing, inner and outer.
The installation will include hundreds of photographs and a few videos projected on scrims in a cyclical form. There will be a soundscape, prints and sculptural forms.
Various kinds of trees will be seen from different angles. I am in awe of the beauty of trees, their architecture, their lines and textures. Their ingenuity and resilience. We are their beneficiaries and relatives. We share 25% of our DNA with them. They give us breath, life. I have included fallen and broken trees. They evoke the bones of dead ancestors and my own to come.
Recently, books have appeared that tell how trees communicate and nourish each other, such as The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and novelist Richard Power’s The Overstory. These and other books have given me heart and heartbreak. I came to realize that the project, which began as an aesthetic response to the beauty of trees, was also about mortality, my own and the planet’s trees.
During the preparation for the show, two thoughts kept bubbling to the surface:
Trees are sacred; Everything is connected. This interconnection is itself sacred.
There is nothing new in those ideas. But I can’t help but think that only the embrace of those ideas could save our planet. This is so obvious that I am almost embarrassed to write these words. But nonetheless this is not yet embraced sufficiently, which is the
message of The Overstory.
Sacred Tree Habitat is dedicated to souls in need of healing. My goal is to provide a place in which people find respite and inspiration. Water Refuge had that effect and led to my installations of water videos in the cancer centers of two Boston hospitals. My hope is that this show can have a second life as well.
To have lived long enough
and not too far from the dying
of a couple of ancient trees
the high leaf and flowering
above broken arms to have known
one great tree full and sturdy
then in my own years
the arbitrary swords of sunscald
lightening scar scab rot
in the woods behind our house
uprooted storm-thrown hemlock
(hurricane of ‘thirty-eight) a humped
and heaving graveyard do you see that
it’s good in one ordinary life
to have witnessed the hard labor
of a long death the way one
high branch can still advance alone pale green
and greener into the sun’s
Becky Kisabeth Gibbs
Sea Change II, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 in., 2018
I gaze at the ocean, a mysterious and constantly changing reflection of its Surroundings.
Light and motion create shifting patterns that imply a path to somewhere.
My mind travels out to sea, lost in a water reverie.
Wild and tranquil, threatening and beautiful, the ocean is both intimately personal and infinitely universal.
Oh, to have that feeling of serenity from being on, in, or just near water.
I hear the waves as I paint.
2018 Teen Bridge artists, Home-Heart detail, reclaimed house parts, manila tags, mulch, clay and acrylic paint, 72 x 72 x 96in., 2018
In the summer of 2018, Nora Valdez worked in collaboration with Teen Bridge artists to develop a project that engages the larger community around the theme of home. In neighborhoods around Boston, people experience varieties of security and insecurity involving home. Some individuals and families are searching for a home in an expensive landscape, living in shelters, while other are enjoying the safety and comforts of a stable home. Some are making a new home after moving to Boston, while others have been in Boston for generations. Through this project, Nora and Teen Bridge artists initiated a public dialogue by exploring the questions: What makes a place home? What makes home safe, comforting? How do we create a sense of home, claim a place as home?
Many of the youth that the Eliot School serves in its School & Community Partnership Program come from families with immigrant parents or live in neighborhoods and attend school with people who have come from elsewhere to live in Boston. Many live in neighborhoods that are undergoing demographic change as housing prices exert pressure on homeowners and renters alike. These teens are on the brink of adulthood, facing a time when they will need to make decisions about where to live and where to call home. Meanwhile, many of our community partners also serve people who must reflect continually on how to create a sense of home. The theme of home is one that is alive, active and engaging for both teens and the communities the Eliot School serves throughout Boston. This exhibition includes the sculpture Home/Hogar made during the collaboration between Nora Valdez and the teen artists, as well as artwork created by Nora Valdez focused on the theme of Home.
Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts' 2018 Artist in Residence, Nora Valdez with Teen Bridge artists, Grace MacPherson, Isaac Madera, Amaya Willis