Tree story- ingrid mayrhofer



My real-time intervention with culture and nature takes place in the liminal spaces created by human interaction with the land. The project is located on an abandoned farm in Tay Township, Ontario. Fire destroyed the original Huron village in 1647 and the 19th century farmhouse in the 1960s. In the seventies, the 100-acre farm was allowed to “go back to nature” and it sheltered a few draft dodgers. In 1999, Alison Brigden (1908-2011) gave me permission to clear half an acre of bush, and I planted 300 evergreen seedlings the following spring. The severe drought of 2012 killed two thirds of the young trees. Instead of replanting, I began to collect detritus left behind by farmers and other occupants, and placed selected items in the empty spots. Over time, these objects sank into the ground, while the surviving trees grew taller. As the trees grow, they provide habitat for small animals and are less susceptible to pests. My artistic intervention includes cutting the thorns and sumac around each tree two or three times a year, pruning the spruce and fir into Christmas tree shapes and documenting the process. The pines quickly grew out of my control, and the damaged trees inspired unusual shapes. Photographs, drawings and drypoints of the field during different seasons, weather, and stages of labour narrate how the trees grow, while the objects deteriorate. The symbolic value of the evergreen in the northern hemisphere predates and reaches beyond its role in Christmas. I have chosen the decorative pattern - fir branch and wisteria seedpod - from my own grandmother’s collection of paint rollers to complete my tree story. To me, this pattern celebrates the resilience of the evergreen - its living colour against the cold white cover of winter, and the seedpod hints at renewed growth in spring.