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Reading Trees

“The oak tree seemed to be writing something using very few words”
-- Marie Howe from her poem "The World."

     Trees offer us a redemptive beauty especially welcomed in unsettled times. They seem to be describing a kind of peace and happiness that is both distant and familiar. Yet trees are not only solace, they also call on us to act. They remind us that their health and our health are inexorably linked to the health of our planet.

     As an artist I have chosen to engage the issue of our threatened planet by emphasizing the beauty, wonder and joy that can still be found in the natural world. I hope this approach may help kindle affection and draw upon our personal experiences of finding happiness and joy in nature. If we are to protect the natural world, we must learn to love it even more. The challenge is daunting. Gloomy statistics and vivid examples of destruction and loss, while necessary, do not seem sufficient for the task. I believe, as the writer Wendell Berry has declared in an essay by the same title, “it all turns on affection.” The British science writer Michael McCarthy puts it even more bluntly in his recent book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy: “The passionate happiness the natural world triggers in us may be the most serious business of all.”

     Trees are what I have been thinking about a great deal lately. And reading about. And photographing. I watch them move. I touch them with my hands to better understand the crosshatched bark of a black walnut or the waxy fan-like leaves of a ginkgo. Touching trees always takes me back to a time as a child when climbing trees was exhilarating and liberating play. The cool smooth trunk beneath my hands felt like stone, yet strangely alive.

Gregory Spaid, 2024

London Plane Tree at Harbor, Governor's Island, NYC, 2016
Live Oak, Botany Plantation, Edisto Island, SC, 2017
Shadow on Cracked Wall, Marfa, TX, 2016
Willow in Cherokee Park, Louisville, KY, March, 2015
Maple in Late Fall, Knox County, OH, 2015
London Plane Tree, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015
Birch on Hillside, Knox County, OH, 2015
Tree with Blue Sky, Boulder Reservoir, Boulder, CO, 2014
Tree at Night in Central Park, NYC, December, 2009
Cedar at Sunset, Kokosing Nature Preserve, OH, 2015
Tree and Cloud, Haystack Mountain, Boulder, CO, October, 2014
Sumac at Night, Roosevelt Island, NYC, 2017
Catalpa and Foothills, Boulder, CO, 2014
Tree and Front Range, Boulder County, CO, 2014
Flowering Tree, Masonic Home, Louisville, KY, 2015
Maple at Hopewell Church, Knox County, OH, 2015
Livestock Truck, High Plains, CO, 2012
Trimmed Tree and Farm, Knox County, OH, 2015
Tree and Frozen Field, Knox County, OH, 2015
Round Tree Against Sky, Fall, Knox County, OH, 2015
"Checks Cashed," Mount Vernon, OH, 2015
"New and Used," Chama, NM 2016
Tree Rooted in Rock, Summer, WY, 2015
Tree on Great Lawn, Central Park, NYC, 2010
White Tree, Central Park, NYC, 2010
St. Catherine's Park, 1st Ave, NYC, 2017
Tree and Apartment Building, Central Park, NYC, 2015
Tree with Carved Numbers and Freedom Tower, NYC, 2015
Tree with Woman Standing, Central Park, NYC, 2015
Tree and Picnic, Central Park, NYC, 2015