Creating a massive plaster cast of a 140-year-old hemlock tree is an understandably tedious process, requiring pulleys, buckets, and a comfort with heights, but Seattle artist John Grade says it was also a fulfilling one.
What it allowed for was an opportunity to become so intimately engaged with the details of the tree, like finding ways in which a branch might make a sudden bend in a way that didn’t intuitively make sense. You sort of lose sense of yourself,” Grade says in the video documentation of his ambitious project, Middle Fork. It took Grade and his team of volunteers a full two weeks to cast the tree by wrapping it in protective aluminum foil and then covering the foil with many layers of plaster, all while high up in the air.
When this process was finally complete, the casts were taken to MadArt studios in Seattle, where the artists worked to place thousands of tiny cedar blocks around the outside of the the tree. The result is an intricate wooden lattice transformed into an awe-inspiring, hollowed-out replica. The tree is currently on display at MadArt gallery in Seattle before touring to galleries in Washington, D.C., London, and many other locations around the world. When the tour is over, the cedar lattice will be placed back in the forest next to the tree it resembles to decompose, completing a beautiful imitation of the circle of life.