Sumi ink on paper, 24” x 30”. Unknown location.
One of many treepiles. I began doing these when I moved from DC (near Chinatown) to Berryville about 3/4 hrs outside of Washington. At that time our little town was too far away to serve as a commuter village because of the distance. They had begun developing The Dulles toll road area with software industry which now put Berryville within a reasonable commuter distance. The result was that a rural orchard community was turning into a housing area for Northern Virginia commuters. They began pulling up the apple trees using large bulldozers and chains. At the height of it all you could see these tree piles in military rank and file extending all the way out to the horizon. At some point they would light them on fire. Each pile of trees was about 20 feet in diameter and 10 to 12 feet high.
For the following years they would plant field corn on the orchard grounds it detox the soil making it suitable for housing. This was because of the years of poisoning the soil with pesticides. After several years of planting and plowing under corn the land could be approved for housing.
Some people look at an orchard and see it as a natural landscape. Growing up half Japanese I had relatives who grew bonsai. My dad had two of them that were both over 100 years old. He had a kit of surgical looking tool with which he would systematically cut back roots in order to deprive the tree of enough nutrients to get larger but just enough to keep it alive. After the trees had died I began to think of bonsai as a kind of sinister type of art form — it seemed akin to foot binding or body art forms that distort the appearance of a humans or animals. For me the orchards were like that. They were “nature controlled” as opposed to living with nature. My freind Jaune Quick to See Smith told me how she was taught by her mother and grandmother where and how to find food. Much of the food which they picked and ate were found rather than farmed. They coexisted with nature.
So in short, the orchard paintings became my commentary on our reckless modification of nature to serve our needs regardless of the damage it may do to the planet.