Q&A between Elizabeth Heskin and Lisa Stefanelli.
On the event of the exhibition of Whose Woods These Are
at Heskin Contemporary, New York,
EH: What role does the installation play in your
pursuits as an artist?
LS: The installations encompass the relationships which my
paintings depict: the act of being both simultaneously involved
and uninvolved in the complexities which surround us.
These pieces identify the conditions in which we live everyday
while existing within the lives of others.
There is the use the “vine” which wraps
around and entangles and falls into moments of joy and despair,
and there are the “trees” . These elements are simply a different
language, rather than the line/color/composition elements of painting.
EH: What provoked the actual use of trees?
LS: There is a rich tradition of placing trees in galleries,
beginning with Smithson. Being a traditionalist, I followed his lead.
Robert Smithson, “Dead Tree”, 1969
EH: How does your work as a set designer inform your
LS: I can’t help but consider stylizing things I see. The forest was bound
to fall victim.
EH: How did you choose your “victims”?
LS: The rule was that if I removed a tree, it had to be dead, but in a way
I still regret moving them. I knew in a few years they would be on the earth
rotting…an unceremonious burial...yet important to the cycle of life.
EH….and the concept for the installation?
LS: The trees encounter many adversaries while in their natural environments.
In their early years, the trees in this particular forest were living along side an
invasive vine, which would wrap itself around their trunk as they grew. A union
of tree and vine, each one struggling year after year over who would gain the
upper hand. Often the trees were the underdogs…since they were being strangled
by an invasive species.
A metaphor for human relationships: the vine and the tree. In some cases, the two
live peaceful and unified, while others create arduous and cruel scenarios.
They define one another’s lives.
In their slow growing, exclusive relationship, some of the trees were caught in
the grasp of the vines which grew with only a small waving, gentle sway, while
others are deformed with enormous knobs which eventually stunted their lives.
Some, if they had survived and overcome a particularly aggressive strangulation
in the early years, were left to live, with only a beautiful mark upon the adult tree
….while others lived entirely untouched.