If a tree makes a drawing in the forest and nobody sees it, is it good?

Willa Koerner
Feb 18, 2013 7:11PM

At first look at this work by Tim Knowles, I imagined a willow tree's branches blowing gracefully after a first November snow, tracing graphic ruts in the evaporating white blanket. Reading that the artist actually taped pens to the branches of the tree and carpeted the ground with an expanse of white paper so that the tree's movements would be captured in an actual pen/paper "drawing," I felt the original gentleness of the piece drained into something much more reductive. If trees are drawing in the woods every day, what does it mean to force the tree to participate in the specifically human act of putting pen to paper?

Writes Tim Knowles about his project, "Like signatures each drawing reveals the different qualities and characteristics of each tree." Do you think a tree would feel comfortable with this statement? Artists have been depicting trees since the beginning of art's history, and it's interesting to think about giving the trees the chance to express themselves in their own distinctive ways. Is this working in the trees' favor, though? Part of me pines for a real work of art created by a tree, but then I imagine that with all its nuanced textures and colors, perhaps that's what the forest floor already is. I'm still thinking about it.

Pictured at right: an image of the forest floor, another work from Tim Knowles' "Tree Drawings" series, and a happy little tree working on a painting of Bob Ross.

Willa Koerner