Samantha Perry

A Redwood Grows in Brooklyn

Samantha Perry

Across from the library in the playground where I once played is the first tree I ever successfully climbed. The bark at the base of the tree is stripped and smooth from countless amounts of children who have attempted to clamber up into the branches. I was only able to make it up a few branches, but I still felt like I was on top of the world.

The iconic coast redwood trees in California aren’t made for climbing, but they evoke an even more powerful feeling of awe. Lost Man Creek is an art installation in Brooklyn made up of dawn redwoods that has recreated a portion of California’s Redwood National Park. Despite the similarities in their common names, the dawn redwood and coast redwood are not the same species. They are, however, members of the same subfamily and share many characteristics. The dawn redwood trees look like mini versions of the coast redwoods and come in at just one to four feet tall. That’s a small fraction of the size of a typical coast redwood, which can range from 98 to 380 feet tall.

One of the coolest parts of this installation is how precise it is. Using topographical information collected by NASA, the artist, Spencer Finch, was able create a scaled model of a 790-acre portion of the California forest almost to the sprout. Lost Man Creek is one-hundredth of the size of the acreage it is modeled after—a trail area from which the installation also gets its name.

The exhibition is designed to facilitate the growth of each seedling with a scheduled irrigation system, and the trees will also undergo a seasonal change. Since dawn redwoods are deciduous (meaning they shed their needles), the installation will change throughout the year. When the trees’ needles fall in the winter, the installation takes on a whole new look, becoming a ghost of the former forest, before coming back to life in the spring.

Another plus of the installation? The dawn redwood was believed to be extinct until a small grove was discovered in China in the 1940s. Although they’ve become popular around the world, the Lost Man Creek installation is helping to combat any future threat of extinction for the dawn redwood.

The installation is located at the MetroTech Commons in Brooklyn and will be open until the spring of 2018. Finch hopes that each tree will have a new home by then.

Did You Know?
In 1976 in Utah, Nancy Holt created Sun Tunnels, an art installation of four concrete tubes with hole patterns designed after several constellations. The tunnels are also designed to line up with the summer and winter solstices, catching the light of the sun to create a unique piece of art every day.

Photo Credit: Ken Chan

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