From my series work When Trees Cry
About Dancing Tree ~During my public project art residency on the Boston Harbor Islands during the summer of 2019, I spent downtime documenting the erosion along the coastal shores. Befriending a certain decaying tree on my daily walks, noting its gestural qualities and beauty through lifeless limbs, I began writing about the tree and imagining it dancing before me.
I was thrilled to be accepted to the Cambridge Art Association member curatorial opportunity to exhibit my idea about trees. In April 2022 we presented in person at the Kathryn Schultz Gallery, Cambridge, Mass. My vision was brought to life through a stunning dance performance, which was one of the featured pieces in my curated exhibition, “In the Presence of Trees.” This unique exhibition explored multiple mediums and artists, presenting a challenge that I embraced and grew from. Finding solace through nature helped me through the tough times of the pandemic.
“In the Presence of Trees” dance was choreographed by Jessi Stegall and performed with her partner Ilya Vidrin. Part of Jessi’s preparation included her small hand embellished notebook containing images and notes about our artworks for her choreography. In Jessi’s words; “a chorus of living wood” began to emerge. From the beginning I knew that I wanted to document everything. Being present during the filming gave me a glimpse of their creativity in action. The live performance took place in early May 2022 before a captivated audience. Beverly, C.J., and Jane’s brilliant visuals and dedication, made a long three years come together in a truly meaningful and uplifting way. Special thanks to CAA Director, Erin Becker for making sure everything went as planned. The gallery was a perfect setting. My love and gratitude to all for being on this journey with me.
My reworking of our images highlights my initial response to the island connection with Jessi and Ilya. By chance our paths crossed and became my vision for this curation. During residency, I kept a journal and wrote the Dancing Tree poem.
by Robin MacDonald-Foley
Beach tree rests in twilight’s still,
as softly tinted clouds drift past,
beckoning this night for all,
a memory to last.
In perfect cast you set a tone,
pin pale rose blanket high,
to heavens backdropped glory
high above the sky.
You move with grace in finery,
to earthly friends delight,
a star-lit serenade to end,
a perfect close to night.
But lull-a-byes awaken,
spray toes and hamper sleep,
by water’s edge in wistful hours,
do hear the beach tree weep.
When sunrise warms stiffened limbs,
and shadows rise to call the day,
once more I’ll greet and ask of you,
to dance the day away.
Summer 2022 ~ Shuttered since 2020, the island yurts were finally open to the public. Due to the drought, beach fires were controlled and some of the trees along the upper shoreline were trimmed back. As the trees continue to succumb to erosion, the aftermath of Dancing Tree and its clipped limbs were at first unrecognizable. I was saddened by this new version of the tree, yet my heart remained happy having met Jessi and Ilya in 2019 during that magical summer on island.
Spring 2023 ~ An iteration of “In the Presence of Trees” is in the works for fall 2023 at the Munroe Center for the Arts, featuring the visual artists, Beverly Rippel, C.J. Lori, Jane Sherrill, and myself. Stay tuned!