Every summer the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, NJ mounts an outdoor art exhibit, ‘Art in the Garden’. This year’s show, titled ‘Missing Trees’, with work by local artist Pat Brentano, is a disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for environmental awareness/activism and art being bedfellows, but this was just a snore. What could have been a dynamic statement about trees (which you all know I love and hug regularly) and their importance to the planet and ourselves, is a passive, albeit sometimes pretty installation.
A series of white rectangular panels, some hinged, some free standing are installed throughout the arboretum. Each panel has a cut out silhouette of a specific species of tree found in the arboretum. I suppose these panels are intended to spark a dialog between the negative space and the living space, but for me they missed the mark completely. There is no relationship between the land, the trees and the art and because the panels are bright white they each become the dominant focal point no matter where they are installed on the property. If I dig down really deep I suppose I could make a connection between the virginal white and the rape of our forests…
There is so much dynamic and thought provoking work being done right now that comments on environmentalism, nature and our relationship with it. I think the Arboretum could have found something much more challenging than ‘Missing Trees’ to show us.