Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017
- Title: Growth
- Primary Author: Anna Guerrero (Arizona State University)
- Additional Authors: Anna Guerrero (Arizona State University); Clarisse Hart (Harvard Forest); Neil Pederson (Harvard Forest)
The human lifespan— which is relatively short compared to that of a single tree, and strikingly short in relation to an entire forest or landscape— makes it difficult for us to conceptualize the timescale on which trees and forest ecosystems are living and changing.
Through these paintings, I sought to translate the temporal element of trees and forests into a medium accessible by everyone. In order to do so thoroughly, I conducted a two-month study to answer the question, how do we develop through time, and how does that development affect our experience? The “we” and “our” includes humans, trees, forests, and landscapes. The study was comprised of the examination of tree rings, ancient sediment cores, and forest landowner decision-making; the integration of plant physiology, wood anatomy, scientific literature, creative literature, historical artifacts, and artistic works; and fieldwork and sketching in old-growth forests, farms, long-term ecological research plots, historical archives, and museums.
While these scholarly pursuits deepened my understanding of forests, each one of us has, just by the virtue of living and growing, the ability to appreciate and empathize with trees. These paintings connect the experiences of people and forests in parallel developmental periods to elicit a more intimate and accurate understanding of how forests grow and change through time. It is also my hope that these paintings empower you to use the experience of trees and forests to enhance your own relationships with the past, the present, and the future.
The ages in the paintings are represented in chronological order, and were chosen based on two criteria. The first was that an age must demonstrate a significant shift in development and experience for both trees and people. The second was that the age must adequately represent an emotional human experience and a physical tree experience. For example, Beware the Tempest depicts a young adult in the middle of a raging hurricane. As a young adult, I may personally attest to the emotional turmoil and uncertainty that accompanied my new independent life. While a forest may not be worried about choosing a career or being in love or saving the world, a hurricane can come along and dramatically alter its course.
I worked to portray each tree species accurately and to create forest communities (such as the birch, beech, and maple in Beware the Tempest) based on assemblages often found in New England forests. The captions illuminate the scientific phenomena at work within each piece; the final task – using personal experience to understand your own connection with the phenomena – is up to you.
- Research Category: Historical and Retrospective Studies; Group Projects