2010 | dead and live white birches, soil, water, metal structure/support for broken trunk, water irrigation system | deconsecrated 19th century Holy Cross Church (National Register of Historic Places), Cincinnati, OH, USA
presenting sponsor: Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. | supporting sponsor: Marilyn and Martin Wade | contributing sponsors: Schlachter Family Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Vista Foundation, Mary and Bill Baskett, April and John Schneider | supported by: Embassy of Japan in the United States of America, Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit, Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio Buddhist Vihara, Spirit of Place-Spirit of Design | strategic partners: Contemporary Arts Center, Art Academy of Cincinnati | in-kind sponsors: Back Tree Service, BIO-PLEX, Cassinelli's Glendale Nursery, Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, Cincinnati Park Board, Essencha Tea House & Fine Teas, HGC Construction, Inc., Mount Adams Pavilion, Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements, Simpson & Sons, Inc., Structural Systems Repair Group, THP Limited, Inc., Towne Properties, Van Praag Productions, Wayne Buildings, Inc. | project director: Judith Turner-Yamamoto | arboricultural advisor: Tim Back | community outreach director: Cate Dean | AAC student coordinator: Claire Brose | media outreach advisor: Preeti Thakar | development advisor: Mary Sturk | Art Academy of Cincinnati sculpture/drawing students: Jaclyn Bishop, Chelsea Carpenter, Eunha Chung, Chris Clements, Cody Detmer, Katelyn Dobson, Ryan Flanagan, Megan Gertz, Cody Gunningham, Liz Hardy, Lindsey Henderson, Cassandra Klemm, Daniel P. Lansdown, Alicia Little, Laura Wilmanns, Jessica Wittwer | special thanks: Kit Anderson, Satoshi Aoki, Sota Arakawa, Evi Banzhaf McCord, Keith Benjamin, Neil Bortz, Elliott Brose, Jerry Burnside, Stephan Carbonara, Pete Cassinelli, Judi Cettel, Anne Chasser, Claire Darley, Rico DeLuca, Kristin Dugas, Mike Elam, Charlotte Hahn, Mark Hoffman, Alexandra Horenberg, Mike Huseman, Ven. Daiun Iba, Misako Ito, Kazuo Konuma, Danny Krzynowek, Ryan Kurtz, Kathleen Lane, Setsuko LeCroix, Brian Lori, Kuninori Matsuda, Jean McCafferty, Tracy Monson, May Moran, Tamera Muente, Julie Murphy, Andrew Otradovec, Travis L. Price III, Neil J. Quinn, Pam Reilly, Steven Rosen, Thomas R. Schiff, Rebecca Seeman, Nick Shore, Michael Siemer, Nick Siemer, Akiko Miyamoto Strickland, Ven. Koppakande Sumanajothi, Adam Traversa, Rob Van Praag, MaryAnne Van Praag, Mick Voynovich, Kathy Wilson, Jayne Zuberbuhler
2010-11 | site-specific installation created with debris from Holy Cross Church: pulverized wall plaster, mineral dust - Included is PENTIMENTI, a series of paintings on plaster and gypsum relief fragments with chipped paint fragments, 24kt gold and silver leaf, gesso, clay bole, animal glue, tree resin | Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA
curator: Justine Ludwig | supported by: Contemporary Arts Center, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. | special thanks: Raphaela Platow, Joshua Mattie, Sean Dunn
In 2008 when I first walked in the church I literally got gooseflesh. The interior was so unexpected after the well-maintained façade. I walked into a ruin. The ceiling is stripped bare to the rafters; there is missing plaster, the wall is bare down to the wood lathe in places. What paint left is scaling. The place was filled with office equipment, a chaotic assortment of things. Of course it’s a de-consecrated space, but this was so surprising. I felt the building was dying, not only physically, but spiritually. I needed to see new life in this decaying church. I envisioned a live tree supported by a large inverted dead tree at the heart of the church. The root system of the uprooted tree held the soil necessary to support the live tree, creating a suspended garden oriented as a sort of tower or cross at the church’s center.
The journey that began with looking for a dead tree for the installation culminated two years later, when a live white birch tree was installed on top of an inverted dead white birch. Suspended, it looked so effortless. Surrounded at first by tall scaffolding and secured by several ropes held by my collaborators, the installation was in reality supported by the enthusiasm and determination of all project participants. It was a miracle, a thing of wonder and marvel. Treated with an organic compound that induced a state of dormancy, the tree was able to stay alive in this unusual situation. After the installation, the dead tree’s roots, multiple trunks, and branches were transported and transformed into new works by Art Academy of Cincinnati sculpture students. The live tree was replanted beside the church. It slept, waiting for spring.
Developing Hanging Garden, I was also drawn to the church debris—pieces of fallen plaster and paint fragments melded with age old dust. The debris reminded me of the hundreds of ruins I saw in Italy. They presented an extreme and insistent form of reconciliation between humanity and nature. There’s a beauty in how things crack. You can see nature’s power. It’s like looking at a bolt of lightening. There is the patina of time, an appreciation that can be traced to the tea masters of Japan, and wabi-sabi, beauty in imperfection. I was also reminded of the Japanese tradition of Suiseki, viewing stones discovered in nature and collected for their beauty. Once in Japan a castle was traded for such a stone.
The history of the site also provided inspiration. The location for the Holy Cross Church and Monastery was originally occupied by the Cincinnati Observatory. The site had long been a place where humanity could connect with the heavens, first through astronomy, and later through religious belief. The current building was built by Passionist priests in 1895. The wall plaster fragments reminded me of a kind of sedimentary rock. Collecting debris, I began to see landscapes in these “stones.” With the exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, I made that landscape visible. Inspired also by traces, shadows of the church’s missing Stations of the Cross, I installed Pentimenti along a long gallery wall, creating linear constellations of gilded pieces and their reflections that lead to Disappearances, a powder and dust installation. Disappearances’ main element was created with pulverized plaster and other white mineral dust and powders. If one grinds anything long enough, it becomes white. I see powder and dust as the ultimate material, that which is eternally in the process of vanishing. In this cosmogonical field, I performed an event, creating a landscape. The installation suggests both infinity and limitation, revealing the precarious beauty of our existence.