Artists and scientists think differently and work toward different goals, but sometimes it is the combination of these pursuits that can lead to the most striking results. That is the philosophy behind “The Wisdom of Trees,” an exhibit at the Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton having an opening reception on Sunday, February 23, from 2 to 4 p.m. The show is on view through July 19.
The show is a collaboration between artist Patricia Bender and scientist Mary Leck, who write that their goals “were to combine our two areas of expertise . . . and explore how these two approaches enhance observation of the obvious and the subtle. How can two divergent views complement one another?
Each offered her own artist’s statement, excerpted below.
‘I have always loved trees,” Patricia Bender writes. “As a child, I loved them naively. They were big and beautiful. They were fun to climb, looking for the perfect spot to settle down and read a good book. They provided a cool and shaded spot during hot summer days. I gave them no thought. They were.
“As I grew older, I loved them intellectually. I began to learn interesting facts about them in biology and natural science classes. They appeared in great literature. I saw their miraculous beauty and complexity depicted in masterpieces of art. Still, I gave them little thought. They were.
“As an adult I have grown to love them passionately. They have provided me with solace and comfort during times of pain and loss. They speak to me of eternal truths on my walks through the woods. I lose my sense of self when I get lost looking up at the play of their leaves.
“When I began to study photography, I found myself photographing trees obsessively. They are my favorite subject. I always see something new when I photograph a tree. They don’t move… all that much. They are constantly changing, eternally beautiful.
“I pay great attention to trees these days. I give them lots of thought. They are.”
Writes Mary Leck: “Trees, without my being aware of it, have long been a part of my experience. I wondered as a child whether the orange seed I’d swallowed, would grow inside me. Later, I had a favorite White Pine I climbed regularly to its very top. The rings of branches were well spaced, perfect for arboreal exploration. We played cowboy and Indians in a pine woods…with real camp fires. In another nearby woods I searched for wild flowers, but knew paper birch, hemlock, beech, and maple trees. Later in other locations, I saw sequoias (CA), kauri trees (NZ), El Trule – a Montezuma cypress (Mexico), and Eucalyptus species (Australia). In a Honolulu (HI) park, there was an enormous tree with votive candles at its base.
“However, it was a sycamore at the Bordentown Beach that made me aware of tree bark growth. I photographed its particularly lovely bark and when I later looked at the photograph, I saw how the bark cracked into patches that peeled, revealing hidden colors and textures, and hinting how the tree accommodated its growth. I hadn’t been paying attention. When I really started looking, I soon realized that all trees do not all respond to growth stresses in the same way. My photographs explore these differences. Bark is remarkable in its variety even on the same tree
“The colors, textures, and patterns of tree bark provide ample opportunities for observation and to ask questions about the physical forces involved and the significance of all that variability. [I wonder whether anyone ever hears the sounds of bark cracking.]
“We can learn from trees, but to understand their wisdom we need to take time, to observe, and to reflect on what we see, to be receptive to the gifts nature provides. We need to wonder, too, about the intricacies of DNA and how trees will meet, for example, the challenges of climate change.”
For more information and related events, visit www.abbottmarshlands.org