Romantic Tree Carvings in New York City’s Forgotten Forests

It’s a time-honored tradition to carve a lover’s initials into a tree. And you’ll often see the names of bands and random teen lingo carved into bark. It’s a romantic record of gleefully reckless youth and idyllic young love. Artist Mary Reilly uses photography, powdered graphite, and lead graphite on paper to commemorate these “anonymous small crimes of passion.” Her exhibition at New York City’s Garvey|Simon Art Access, which closes today, memorializes the tree carvings found within the woods of Alley Pond Park, Queens. The gallery writes of her process:

Reilly uses an intensive layering technique to prepare her paper. Powdered graphite is repeatedly pushed into the paper (sometimes over a number of days) until the right tone is achieved. From there, both additive and reductive techniques (erasure) are used to masterfully render her subjects. The photographs she has taken on her journeys are her main source material, but she edits her subjects to reflect the exact memory, mood and light she associates with each specific place.

Reilly’s images capture the tiny, forgotten spaces of New York City where the magic of adolescence still lives among the trees.

Mary Reilly Graffiti Tree 3, 2013 Graphite On Paper 50 x 38 in
Mary Reilly
Graffiti Tree 3, 2013 Graphite On Paper 50 x 38 in
Mary Reilly  Mushroom Man, 2014 Graphite On Paper 16.3 x 11.8 in
Mary Reilly
Mushroom Man, 2014 Graphite On Paper 16.3 x 11.8 in
Mary Reilly I Love U, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly
I Love U, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary Reilly Luv Shines, 2014 Graphite On Paper 23.5 x 18 in
Mary Reilly
Luv Shines, 2014 Graphite On Paper 23.5 x 18 in
Mary Reilly Graffiti Tree 4, 2014 Graphite On Paper 18 x 18 in
Mary Reilly
Graffiti Tree 4, 2014 Graphite On Paper 18 x 18 in
Mary Reilly 2000 Toke, 2014  Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly
2000 Toke, 2014
Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary Reilly Be My Love, 2013  Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly
Be My Love, 2013
Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly Led Zeppelin, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly
Led Zeppelin, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly Peace, 2014 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in
Mary Reilly
Peace, 2014
Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary Reilly Boy and Girl, 2013  Graphite On Paper 11.5 x 9 in
Mary Reilly
Boy and Girl, 2013
Graphite On Paper 11.5 x 9 in