Tree Bench

Pratt Park
Seattle, WA

[ Link to Tree Bench Video ]

Funding Source: Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs & Seattle Pro Parks Levy

Tree Bench is meant to symbolize diverse cultures coming together into a stream of shared humanity. The form resembles a large tree sliced in half, or perhaps a river system lifted from its banks. Both interpretations represent branching systems containing many small parts that join together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

A tree's form is an elegantly succinct metaphor for the concept of unity in diversity and also for the common ancestry of all people far back in time. Park users desired recognition of the many cultures present in their neighborhood and wished to express good will toward them all. While representing this unifying theme, the artwork invites all visitors to sit down together.

His artworks offer many welcome surprises to the artist as he develops the ideas. Here, the same pieces that make up the 'bark' of the tree float on the surface much like logs in a river or cellulose fibers in a tree, expressing the reality that a branching system's function is often to convey material from a diffuse source to a concentrated destination, or vice versa.

Because he has often experienced 'Aha!' moments when working with materials, it is essential to his process that some elements of the artwork evolve during fabrication. One of the last details to emerge was the treatment of the trunk end. Here, as in the dissection of an organism, the further slicing of the tree results in new and perhaps surprising knowledge about its interior structure.

The artwork's concept was easy to draw on paper but much thought and experimentation was required to arrive at a method of construction that could express the both the bulky and the filigree aspects of 'tree' while maintaining structural integrity throughout. The artist often devises a particular structural system and then pushes that system to its limits. Here the wide trunk and narrow branches exhibit the large and small limits of this structural system.

Tree Bench is also an experiment in social behavior. The artist often thinks of bird behavior when observing people interacting. He is curious to see how people congregate on the bench, just as he loves to watch birds adjusting their positions to accommodate each other on tree branches.