Over the holiday break, my family had the great pleasure of visiting the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) again. Years ago, I met Bill Gates at a private gathering here, and I’ve had many wonderful experiences at SAM. This time, I didn’t meet any celebrities, but instead I was enthralled with the enormous and wonderful tree sculpture that fills the ceiling of the lobby. I feel that March Wong from my novel THE EAGLE TREE would have been even more enthralled and joyous at the vast tree that filled the air of SAM.
I’d like you to enjoy this tree as well, so I’ve created a bit of a photo-essay here by using photos of the tree sculpture here, as well as more details on the sculptor and the process that created this tree, drawn from SAM’s page on the artwork which is by artist John Grade and entitled “Middle Fork”. And interspersed are several relevant quotes from THE EAGLE TREE. Enjoy!
John Grade’s large-scale sculpture, Middle Fork, echoes the contours of a 140-year-old western hemlock tree located in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.
Ahead of me, I saw a Western Hemlock. I called out to it its true name too — “Tsuga heterophylla.” Then I jumped up on top of an ancient giant nurse log, and I could look across a small meadow at a field of young trees. This was a clear-cut, and the trees were growing back, but the cut-over had probably been there since the time I was born. I looked across the growing trees, and I could see the tips of some of them droop. The drooping ones were Western Hemlocks.
— The Eagle Tree
Beginning by making a full plaster cast of the living tree, the artist and a cadre of volunteers used this mold to recreate the tree’s form out of thousands of pieces of reclaimed old-growth cedar. Middle Fork was conceived and fabricated at MadArt Studio and made its Seattle debut there in January 2015. The original work was 40-feet long and will more than double in length for its installation.
At forty feet, the sky is entirely black, but now starlight bleeds faintly down into the forest from between rushing gray clouds. The wind is picking up as well. I can feel it catch at my coat as I twist above the branches. Along with the wind pushing me, it also pushes the branches I am relying on, in one direction or another, back and forth. That means that when I reach out with the clear memory map I have kept from the ground, the limbs I reach for have moved several inches in the wind to the right or the left, so I must fumble in the air before I can grip them again. — The Eagle Tree
About the Artist
Grade’s work is exhibited internationally in museums, galleries, and outdoors in urban spaces and nature. His projects are designed to change over time and often involve collaboration with large groups of people. He lives and works in Seattle.
THE EAGLE TREE was published by Little A. The book sold over 80,000 copies to become a national bestseller and was listed in 2016 as one of Top 5 Books on the Autistic experience.
Buy THE EAGLE TREE at indie bookstores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.