In 2009 an ailing, 125-year-old American ash tree was cut down in The Aldrich’s Sculpture Garden. It was agreed that the wood should be offered to an artist, and sculptor Jessica Stockholder was invited to utilize it in an exhibition: perhaps surprisingly, as she is well known for ephemeral abstraction, primarily made from synthetic, man-made materials and objects. In this work, she continues to explore how picture-making intersects three dimensions as she muses over the relationship between trees and architecture.
The ash tree’s wood prompted Stockholder to reflect on her formative influences as she grew up in Vancouver. The imagery she applied to the wooden surfaces was influenced by both the distinctive landscape and her appreciation of the indigenous Native culture of the northwest Pacific coast—particularly the spectacular woodcarving and printmaking traditions. Allusions to landscape mingle with references to eyes (stylized eye-forms are prevalent in Northwest Coast Native art), mirroring the viewer’s gaze and suggesting both the accumulated experience of the tree and the fleeting glance of the viewer.
These works are the result of Stockholder’s unique collaboration with fine art screenprinter Gary Lichtenstein and cabinetmaker Clifford Moran. Moran expanded small paper maquettes made by the artist into the full-scale wooden “screens,” and Lichtenstein utilized Stockholder’s drawings to produce silkscreens for printing on the leaning boards. The hand-painted imagery was applied in The Aldrich’s workshop with the assistance of Richard Cooke, the head preparator, and Christopher Manning, his assistant.
These works, made from the wood of a tree that grew outside The Aldrich’s windows, are meant to be experienced indoors. From the protection of the gallery, they draw attention to our intersection with—and adaptation to—the natural world outside, the artist’s past, and art history.
Richard Klein, Exhibitions Director.