GLENCOE (March 28, 2016) -- Secrets will be revealed at The Hidden Art of Trees, an exhibition highlighting the artistic and functional side of wood. The exhibition will run from April 30 to August 21 at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Wood furniture and functional art created by some of the Midwest’s most distinctive artists will be on display. Some of the artists to be featured include Michael Doerr, Celia Greiner, Mike Jarvi, Matthew Osborn, Greta de Parry and Sean (Lucky) Rice.
Each of the artists has a unique style that allows him or her to, as Gabriel Hutchison, exhibitions and programs production manager puts it, “find the character in the wood” and show visitors a side of trees that isn’t usually on display.
Artist Jarvi, who will have several pieces of furniture featured at the show, is known for using steam bending to create one-piece tables and benches. He said he is often guided to create work based on natural features already present in the wood. Jarvi said it’s much more difficult to first conceptualize a piece and then find wood that matches the idea.
“Wood is a living, breathing thing in constant renewal,” he said. “With a bit of a mind of its own, it doesn’t always do what you want it to do.”
The pieces will be on display in the Joutras Gallery. The Bridge Gallery will feature an interpretive specimen display created by Horigan Urban Forest Products that gives visitors an inside look at usually unseen characteristics of trees we encounter every day.
“This will be a show about the furniture and functional art, but it’s also an educational exhibition that allows the visitor to see the characteristics of the wood in its initial form before the artists’ vision,” Hutchison said.
Horigan, which provided much of the wood seen at the exhibition, only uses wood from trees in a 50-mile radius around Chicago. The trees Horigan acquires — or occasionally takes down itself — already need to be removed. Bruce Horigan, co-owner of Horigan Urban Forest Products, said the trees that visitors will see at the exhibition are “diseased, insect-infested, old, storm-damaged, hazardous or new construction impediments.” Horigan said those trees are usually used in ways that aren’t lasting.
“The wood is often used for mulch and firewood,” he said. “The wood breaks down and, within a few years, their use is over. When you make it into lumber and it’s turned into furniture, that tree has a potentially longer use in its second life than it had in its first life.”
Horigan said when artists visit his company’s facility to see the lumber, how they view the wood’s potential is special and he tries to facilitate the woodworking process by viewing trees the way an artist does.
“They see what’s possible with each piece of lumber,” Horigan said. “I try to be the first line of defense in terms of finding the hidden art, so the woodworker has a way to coax it out.”
Jarvi invoked poet Joyce Kilmer to explain why he’s drawn to creating his pieces from trees.
“As the poem says ‘only God can make a tree’ and of course we know it’s true,” Jarvi said. “But maybe he needs our hands to reveal some of its potential beauty, the otherwise unseen surprises.”
The exhibition is free and open during regular Regenstein Center hours.