Environmental issues are more urgent than ever. After all, there are politicians and an alarming number of people who truly believe that global warming is a giant hoax. These concerns are reflected in the works of environmental artists, many who use organic materials to draw attention to ecological problems like deforestation. Forests cover approximately one-third of the planet so it seems obvious that the subject of trees would be a major component of these artworks. After spotting a gorgeous natural “cathedral” built along the base of Mount Arera in Northern Italy (found on Honestly), we searched for other tree art installations that celebrate the beauty of nature and raise activist concerns.
The Cattedrale Vegetale, created by Italian artist Giuliano Mauri, is a breathtaking Gothic-style, cathedral-like structure made from woven chestnut and hazel branches (more than 600), formed into towering columns. A beech tree is planted inside each column, which will grow and maintain the frame of this gorgeous church of nature when the organic encasements deteriorate.
Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira collects discarded plywood and other recycled wood materials from the streets of São Paulo to create his massive sculptures that snake through gallery walls, altering the architecture of the space. He’s also built caverns of wood, drawing audiences inside the belly of his tremendous trees. “The development of these works was made in a progressive attempt to force them to conform to my imagination. It was a struggle between my wish and the resistance of a non-easily manageable material,” the artist said in an interview with Yatzer.
Giuseppe Licari’s hanging installations reveal the tangled roots of trees as they vanish into gallery ceilings, becoming organic chandeliers.
German artist Matti Braun’s tree stumps filled Bristol’s Arnolfini arts centre, arranged like stepping-stones in several gallons of water. The wood was taken from a 150-year-old tree that was removed from Gloucestershire’s Westonbirt Arboretum due to an invasive fungus.
Calling attention to ecological issues like global deforestation, Konstantin Dimopoulos writes about his striking series of blue tree installations:
In my environmental installation, The Blue Trees, the colour and the Tree come together to transform and affect each other; the colour changing the Tree into something surreal, something out of this world. While the Tree, rooted in this earth reflects what we may lose. This change is important not only as a means to highlight ecological issues, such as the ecocide of our forests, but also that it may effect a transformation in the psyche of people by raising our social consciousness.
Note: the trees are covered in environmentally safe pigment.
Brooklyn artist Michael Neff swiped your trashed Christmas trees for his installation under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a pile of dead trees on a dirty New York City sidewalk, but Neff gave the timber a new home, hanging them for the BQE’s travelers to gawk at.
Daughter of celebrated African-American assemblage artist Betye Saar, Alison Saar explores similar themes of ancestry, folklore, and diasporic religions/spirituality. Her 1994 work Tree Souls featured 16-foot archetypal figures towering above inverted tree branches.
From the Imagine Peace Tower website:
“As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.” — Yoko Ono: “All My Works Are A Form Of Wishing”.
Yoko Ono’s interactive artwork WISH TREE (1996) has been integral to many of her exhibitions around the world in museums and
cultural centers where people have been invited to write their personal wishes for peace and tie them to a tree branch.
Yoko has collected all the wishes – currently totalling over a million!
They are to be housed at the site of the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER.
Welsh artist Zander Olsen wraps trees in fabric and mirrors to create a “visual relationship between tree, not-tree, and the line of horizon according to the camera’s viewpoint.”
London Fieldworks’ Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven is a sculptural installation drawing on the ecology and biodiversity of two sites on opposite sides of London: Duncan Terrace Gardens in the East and Cremorne Gardens in the West. The installations are constructed from several hundred bespoke bird boxes mounted in two trees of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and reflect the forms of the surrounding architecture; a combination of Georgian town houses, and 60’s social housing around Duncan Terrace Gardens, and the World’s End Estate adjacent to Cremorne Gardens.