A tree is growing rapidly inside library

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By Carol A. Clark

Three distinguished artists are in the process of examining the nature of growth by creating a one-of-a-kind sculptural tree that’s growing daily in the upstairs art gallery in Mesa Public Library throughout the month of November.


The evolution of this unique project, titled “Growth,” can be seen by the public each day within regular library hours.


Michelle Cooke of Taos, longtime Los Alamos resident Fairley Barnes who now resides in Santa Fe and S.C. Thayer of White Rock have been collaborating on this creation for 13 months.


Individual works by these accomplished artists have been exhibited across the country for several years.


For their “Growth” project, the artists have turned the upstairs gallery into a working studio, planting the first root Nov. 1.


On Tuesday, the tree had grown to some 18-feet high and 12-feet wide. It will continue growing until reaching its full potential on Nov. 30.


“In the collaboration of this project, each of us responds to actions the other ones have taken,” Thayer said. “It’s this interaction as artists that mimics the tree’s growth on a creative level.”


By creating a sculptural tree in the art gallery over the course of the month using materials such as paper, rope and wire, the artists are examining a tree's natural growth patterns including roots, trunk and branches. Structurally, the form will mirror how a tree develops over time.


“We’re studying the nature of growth, both interpersonal growth as well as cycles of growth in nature,” Thayer said. “Most of our material has come from trees and natural fibers, most of which are recycled.”


Some of the paper for the project was harvested from encyclopedias in the library’s give-away-box provided by the Friends of the Library, she said.


“The really interesting aspect of this project is allowing growth to happen over the course of 30 days and to have it be a time lapse of a tree’s life that we’re creating together,” Cooke said. “We’re limiting the time the tree will grow because of time and space limitations.”


The public is invited to view the work in progress, visit with the artists as they collaborate on the sculpture, ask questions, give suggestions and contribute ideas.


The artists mentioned that many area students have been stopping by to checkout the progress and are expressing amazement at what they are seeing.


The ongoing growth of the tree will be documented by daily photographs, as well as by drawings and studies of trees created by each artist throughout the last year.


“This is the first site specific work created for this gallery,” Thayer said. “We have about 80 hours working on the tree for a week between the three of us.” `


The unusual interior of the library's gallery space, designed by Antoine Predock, allows three individual perspectives on the process of growth to emerge in this single piece worked on jointly by the artists.


The upstairs art gallery is open during regular library hours:


• 10 a.m.-9 p.m Monday-Thursday;


• 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday;


• 10 a.m.-5p.m. Saturday, and


• noon-5 p.m. Sunday.


The public also is invited to attend the closing reception and artists’ discussion of the completed piece set for noon-2 p.m., Nov. 30 in the gallery. The finished sculpture will remain in place through Dec. 31.