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Is there any way to re-create a tree? Man-made life forms have, at best, feebly tried to replicate the complexities of the natural world. Robots are one dimensional creations humans have proffered to stand in and do tasks a biological human being could or would not do. But what about trees? Could there come a time when it is critical for life on earth to attempt to engineer a man made tree? Could these tree-bots do half of the vital life giving tasks a true tree effortlessly does? In this series I make admittedly feeble attempts at recreating trees, hopefully to underscore that there is no way to synthesize them once they are gone.


The concept for this sculpture is to highlight the toxic permanence of single use plastic bottles not only to ourselves but the environment. I collected two ingredients for this piece, a large quantity of various single use plastic beverage bottles and messages (hopes and wishes relevant to water, environmentalism, climate change, etc.) from a cross section of the general public. I refilled each bottle with a message on paper. I installed 668 bottles on the tree to represent a family of four’s annual use of plastic beverage containers. The messages in the bottles really make this piece a community dialog. People are more invested if they can say something and have it sealed in a bottle and added to a public art sculpture. They own a little piece of the sculpture, they helped make it better.  That way of thinking is what will help the environment at large.

In addition to individual messages being sealed in bottles and affixed to the tree the writings of the participants have been compiled and can be read online.

As of October 2015, the Message in a Bottle sculpture is finished. I was impressed by how seemingly sparse the bottles looked on the tree. The huge old ash could have hosted thousands of bottles but I installed a specific number of bottles to represent a family of four’s annual use of plastic beverage containers. That number as close as I could find through research is 668.

Chicago Sculpture International (CSI), in conjunction with the Chicago Park District (CPD), is proud to announce the “Chicago Tree Project,” a citywide plan to transform sick and dying trees into vibrant public art. Using art as a vessel for public engagement, sculptors will transform a variety of trees into fun and whimsical experiences for the greater Chicago community. The collaborative project between CSI artists and CPD is part of the greater initiative to expand the reach of public art in Chicago.

Oak Park Public Library IDEA BOX Installation



March 2016

Trees are dying at an alarming rate due to climate change. After many seasons of enriching our cityscapes with beauty and our air with oxygen these dead trees in Chicago’s parks are being turned over to artists to extend their life into a fifth season; a season of art. 

The Fifth Season is an interactive exhibit featuring Chicago Tree Project artists living and working in Oak Park. Timed to coincide with the One Earth Film Fest, and running through the month of March, the exhibit is another opportunity to learn about environmental issues and make a change. Stop by and see the work of Oak Park artists Margot McMahon, Karen Gubitz and Bryan Northup. Learn about the Chicago Tree Project and leave a message in a bottle on the tree.


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