Like all of the trees Finch used for the project, they’re young Dawn Redwoods, a cousin of the towering Sequoias most of us recognize from middle school biology textbooks or awe-inspiring rambles around the Pacific Northwest. This genus was chosen in part for its resilience (“I mean, they grow on some New York City streets, so if they can survive there, they can make it anywhere!” Finch quipped), but also for its ability, in some environments, to exceed the height of most urban landscapes.
“When you look at these three- or four-foot-tall trees and come to realize that, if they were full-sized, they’d be about 50 feet taller than this building, it inspires a new kind of awareness,” Finch explained, gesturing to a big, shiny office building overhead. He added that, in the world of his forest, humans would be three quarters of an inch tall, a fact that he plans to invoke by adding a small campsite somewhere in the grove. “I think that sort of scale-shift creates a sense of magic—one that, hopefully, can’t help but feed an appreciation of nature,” he continued.
And while visitors could come away from a visit to Lost Man Creek with the assumption that Finch’s grove doubles as a comment on sustainability or global warming, he’s quick to revise that reading. “I mean, my politics are definitely pro-environment, like most artists in New York, but it’s not about a message,” he says. “I’m hoping that it’s more about wonder, in some sort of way, and making people realize how amazing these trees are.”
As Finch spoke, the sun came out momentarily and streamed over the bonsai-scale grove. He pointed out the way the shadows that dotted the four-foot-tall canopy resembled the tendency of clouds to cast dark, roving patches on tree-covered mountaintops, not unlike the environment on which Lost Man Creek is based. As Finch stared down at the trees, his mind traveled to those towering, ancient Redwoods pushing up into the Northern California sky. “They’re just mind-boggling,” he explained. “It’s just some sort of wonderful miracle that they exist—and also that they were preserved. That act of preservation seems to just represent the best impulses of people and government officials.”
As I looked over the group of some 4,000 trees, anthropomorphizing each one as Finch had, I couldn’t help but think that Finch’s Lost Man Creek represented another kind of best impulse—to create public art that doesn’t just sit there idly or bombard people unwantedly, but inspires curiosity, discovery, and maybe even a little magic.