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  Susan Weinberg
  Studio 409































   





TREE TIME
   


This painting is based on one of the oldest trees in the world. It is found in California and is 4700 years old. The tree is aptly called Methuselah.The biblical Methuselah was the grandfather of Noah and together with Noah acted as a messenger to the world of the impending flood, much as the current day Methuselah announces the presence of climate change.

The bristle cone pine is a twisted and gnarly tree that grows in difficult climates.  Its age is determined through taking a core sample  from it and examining the rings under a microscope. The science is known as Dendrochronology which means tree time, hence the name of the painting. I think an awareness of different time scales, tree time vs human time,  reminds us that we bear a responsibility to the world that extends beyond our lifespan.The tree rings reveal changes in climate, rain, drought, volcanic activity and frost. When I painted this, I wanted something that would represent the role of this tree in witnessing, recording and revealing the history of our earth. I decided to paint tree rings behind it, emphasizing the linearity of both the tree and the rings.

Read more about the story told by these ancient trees here.

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SEPARATION



  

When I did this painting, I was thinking about deforestation, but also the concept of presence and absence. We had just had one of our trees diagnosed with Dutch Elm disease and I found myself viewing it with a new fondness as I knew we would have to take it down. Now I feel its presence deeply when I look at the space it once occupied. I have found that with people I often feel their presence deeply when they are gone. The same may be said of trees. I also was intrigued with what I have learned about how trees often function in community with each other and with other plants and animals. In the overlapping branches, I  wanted to show the entanglement of community that is also lost. You can read more about the community formed by trees here.

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SALT FOREST




I had initially named an earlier painting Ghost Forest. That seemed like something that might actually exist so I did a search and learned that the name is often applied to forests that are adjacent to oceans. As the oceans rise due to global warming, they surround the trees and the salt water kills them, turning them into arboreal ghost towns. They poke up through the water in various states of decay, often turning white. This painting is based on actual ghost forests that are markers of the history of our land. I thought of these white trees as pillars of salt, hence the name. You can read more about ghost forests here.


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GHOST TREES

























Every painting leads from and to another. This painting grew out of Separation. I liked the idea and the image, but felt it needed more contrast. As I was thinking of the tree trunks as ghost-like, I decided to paint them white. This enhanced the sense of presence despite their absence. It is only as an afterthought that we notice the stumps beneath them.

 

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CROW


crow

 This collage was based on a photo I took at sunrise at the Grand Canyon.The sun reflected off the crow's feathers giving him a golden glow. I learned that with global warming, mosquitoes will be one of the creatures that will thrive. Mosquitoes spread an illness that crows are especially susceptible to so threaten the existence of the crow. You can read more about this threat here.

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THE FLOOD




 
This was my first painting in this series. I was thinking about deforestation and the resulting floods that occur.  I chopped down a few trees to stumps and let the waters flow around them. The stumps appear to dance in the water. The canvas that I used had several paintings on it previously as I often build on  prior efforts. One of the residues that I kept was a rich yellow sky that echoed work I had seen from much earlier periods.


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SKEETERS


skeeters

 This painting is a companion piece to Crow. In the age of global warming, mosquitoes will thrive. They spread a disease to which crows are especially vulnerable. Thus they play an out-sized role in threatening the existence of our crow population. You can read more about this threat here.
 
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GHOST TREE


ghosttree
This collage uses an image of a tree juxtaposed with water to reflect the stump that remains of a tree overtaken by the sea, a portion of a ghost forest.
 
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WATER


water

When I walk with friends I frequently take pictures that end up in collages. In the lower right you can see leaves that were reflected in water. The water is found in the upper left corner and texture unites the two images.
 
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FIREFLIES



fireflies

Fireflies are another creature that are threatened by our destruction of habitat. For many of us, they bring back childhood memories when they were far more prevalent than they are today. That tree in the foreground is my ill-fated elm that fell to Dutch Elm disease. Perhaps this image is a meditation on what once was.

Read more about the impacts of global warming on fireflies here.

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HONEYCOMB



honeycomb

If you look closely in the upper right you will see a bee against honeycomb. The existence of bees is also threatened by environmental change. To lose them means we lose their important role as pollinators which creates a cascade of impacts. Read more about the threat of global warming to bees here and here.
 
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MESSENGER

messenger

 This collage is composed of tree rings. It became a meditation on the idea of recording and sending a message. It is through these tree rings that we know the history of climate change. As I worked with the images, I flashed on familiar objects from an earlier time, a traditional telephone and a record on a record player. Both were communication devices, designed to pass a message on to a larger world.  My artwork is very much a free association. It reminded me of Native American iconography. so I added a tail to these arrow-like forms, as they arced around our world carrying their message.


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AN INTERRELATED WORLD






While you can view each of these images separately, when I had finished a grouping, I began to assemble them. What struck me was how interrelated they were. The messenger of climate change as represented by the tree, provides its warning that in turn affects the many creatures that populate our earth.What affects the mosquito affects the crow with a series of cascading effects. The idea that what affects one affects all seemed especially relevant at a time when we were facing a pandemic. We live in a global world and cannot live in isolation. Similarly our earth by its very nature is global and each part of it is part of an interrelated tapestry. We need to understand the totality, the parts and most importantly, the interrelationships.


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THE SENTRIES




sentries

While staying at home during COVID-19, we began to walk regularly in lieu of going to the gym. I was surprised at the beauty I found in our neighborhood walks and began to find guideposts along the way to mark the progress of my walk. This one in particular spoke to me and I took countless pictures of it. The tree to the left appears to have a fungal growth on it which reminded me of a necklace. I've not yet done justice to it, so it will likely be updated in the future. Part of it had been cut off while next to it, another tree curved into fluid forms. If the light is just right, the bark of the tree behind it glows,  but often my eye was just drawn to the dark space between these two sentries. There is no environmental story to this save my growing appreciation for the environment which surrounds me.


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SUNSET WALK





sunset

Our walks each evening often allow us to appreciate the sunset. This is one of my favorite images of the sky framing a tree just up the street from our home. It is a gift to see the world through fresh eyes, something that has been awakened in me during Covid-19. Walking has an element of meditation to it, a repetitive act, but spiraling into a deeper appreciation of the environment which surrounds us.


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