Arboreal Anchor, 2008

pine soot on paper
48 x 32 inches
SERIES: Meditations on the Breath of Trees

Several years ago, the way I viewed trees changed dramatically. I was at a lecture on deforestation when the speaker provided this dramatic statistic: “A mature tree processes approximately 300 gallons of water a day.” It occurred to me that a tree is more than an aerial reach of branches and terrestrial dive of roots. A tree is an object of breath. What we cannot see around a tree is a great plume of water vapor. At the time, I was working with inks composed of carbon derived from burning the heartwood of pine trees. I saw a dramatic material link: the living tree produces a plume of water; being burned, the tree produces a plume of carbon. I decided to see if I could use this carbon from the tree to articulate the breath of trees—to render the invisible visible.


This revelation has resulted in a long series of paintings titled Meditations on the Breath of Trees. I first debuted this idea at the Pendleton Center for the Arts in Pendleton, Oregon. Terry Toedtemeier wrote a lovely essay on these pieces, which you can read here. This particular painting was made in 2008 while the author David James Duncan was visiting me. It is currently on exhibition at The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (April 8–July 3, 2010).