Tree Ring Circus
Below are site selection photos taken in early April followed by completed installation photos taken the morning of June 24 along with my thoughts and reasons about siting. Only 20 of 21 sites were completed. Time and energy ran out.
There is a gesture toward the businesses and activities in the vicinity of each sculpture siting - not in the rings themselves. The rings are purposely non-objective and use a black & white color scheme to differentiate them from any common associations with other things. I changed pattern recognition on a couple of the trees to deviate from conformity and habituation of the viewer. One tree has colored rings, but it proves to be the hardest to find.
An artist statement follows.
The sites I chose were based on several factors:
- the physical characteristics of the tree (straight saplings when possible)
- the visual aspects of the site (noisy to serene sites, the rings have a different effect in each)
- frequency of occurrence and the use of both sides of the street (about 3 per block along 7 blocks)
- the kind of businesses or social activities in the immediate area (the rings could bring visitors to each site, endorsing existing businesses and bring attention to vacancies or new businesses)
- the likeliness or unlikeliness of vandalism"
#1: SW corner of Boulder & Tejon
This is the northernmost site. Driving south, this begins the highly active stretch of Tejon Street. There is usually a cluster of people in their teens and twenties and a few homeless folk hanging around the front door of the locally owned coffee shop located on this corner. Seeing the crowd clustered here as I drive into downtown signals to me the the start of the active street culture of our downtown community.
#2: 320 N Tejon
In April, Richard Skorman, the owner of Poor Richard's restaurant, bistro and bookstore was a candidate for Colorado Spring's first "strong mayor." Richard is a recognized supporter of the creative class in the community, but not Republican in a largely Republican leaning county. I thought including this site would have meaning whether he won or lost the election. He lost. I want to honor Richard's commitment to the community and his aspiration to make Colorado Springs a more interesting place. This block has a huge amount of visitation due to Richard's businesses.
#3: Tejon near Platte across from the El Paso Club
This area of Tejon St is the loneliest, grayest part of the entire street. A lively nightspot called Jinx's Place used to be on this corner. It could use a mural or a projected photo image of the former business.
#4: SW corner of Platte & Tejon
This is a lush raised garden area at one of the most used intersections downtown. Drivers wanting to bypass the shopping district or enter the shopping district, either cross or turn south onto Tejon St at this intersection. The neighborhood immediately turns more urban. Acacia Park is to the east. The El Paso Club, the oldest man's club west of the Mississippi, is to the north.
#5: 226 N Tejon
I love the urban clash of bikes with the tree here. I intentionally kept the rings high on this one so that the use of the tree for securing bikes could continue. I also wanted to honor Mountain Chalet, one of Colorado Spring's favorite downtown fixtures. The bikes belong to residents of The Albany, a low income apartment house. The residents were very accommodating during the installation, removing all their bikes for the two hours necessary to install the armature and rings. They look after the artwork and are careful not to lean their bikes on the rebar.
#6: 214 1/2 N Tejon
Here's an empty storefront. It's been empty a long time. There are a few of these as backdrops to the tree treatments. Not only does the place look vacant, but it looks disregarded. I wondered if calling attention to this area would help advertise the location for the owner and additionally, for a new tenant.
#7: to come
Tree Ring Circus is a multiple-location, site-specific art installation that makes use of intimate knowledge for the activities and history of the Tejon Street corridor in which it is sited. The rings are specific to each tree and setting upon which they are situated. The rings were fabricated about one mile from the site using local labor.
The artwork addresses the stated aims of the AOTS sculpture program. The artwork is intended to fulfill the year long duration of the program and no longer. The materials are impermanent and will not be re-sited or sold, but destroyed during their removal. The artwork concept was planned to precisely meet the parameters of the AOTS program and yet, by intention, expand the possibilities of the program, enrich opportunities for artists and those invested in the success of the program and of downtown Colorado Springs.
The rings are non-objective, non-representational sculptural forms intended to evoke curiosity about their unlikely occurrence, placement and recurrence along the streetscape, or to just be enjoyed for their existence. The artwork is original and nontraditional. It establishes its own syntax from which any viewer can derive meaning, question or enjoyment.
All the rings are different across 20 different sitings. They can be viewed and considered while driving or while walking the street. The work is urban in conception, nature and setting and acknowledges the community and activities in which it exists and which support it.
The sculptures are made of Styrofoam sheeting, readily available from building suppliers and sold as insulation. Foam circles were sawn to size, laminated to thickness, then hand shaped with rasps and sandpaper. The rings were painted with exterior grade wood glue before being covered with two layers of paper saturated with the same glue. The rings were then primed and painted white before masking for black paint. The paints are all exterior grade. Each ring was then sawn in half and labeled by site. The rings are supported by 3/8" rebar posts driven into the ground to a specific
height. Usually the rebar needed to be driven into the ground 6-10 inches from the base of the tree to avoid roots, then bent to conform to the tree. Steel rings of varying diameters were hand-formed in the studio then bent around the tree and wired to the rebar. The foam rings were glued to the steel rings and rebar using silicone caulking. Soft urethane foam spacers attached to the inside of the rings prevent the sculptures and rebar from knocking into the tree. Nothing is attached to the tree.