Roxy Paine to Install Life-Size Stainless Steel Tree on UNL Campus

Released on 03/24/2004, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Monday, Apr. 19, 2004

WHERE: City Campus, Donaldson Garden (south of Andrews Hall, northeast of Love Library North)

Lincoln, Neb., March 24th, 2004 —

A new "species" will join the trees planted north of Love Library on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's City Campus.

Beginning April 19, New York artist Roxy Paine will install his latest major work, a 40-foot stainless steel tree in Donaldson Garden, south of Andrews Hall and northeast of Love Library North.

The sculpture -- Paine's sixth and most complex tree sculpture -- is simultaneously elegant and distressed, embodying dualities Paine has explored in his multifaceted work, said Janice Driesbach, director of UNL's Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.

"It promises to offer an exciting addition to our sculpture garden, already one of the finest collections on a university campus," Driesbach said.

The trunk, which was fabricated in Brooklyn, N.Y., and branches, constructed by the artist from hundreds of pieces of steel tubing in his studio in upstate New York, will be shipped to Lincoln in early April, and assembled by Paine and a work crew beginning April 19. Assisted by riggers and a welder from Lincoln, Paine will oversee the raising of the trunk, and then proceed to weld the branches on site. Weather permitting, it is anticipated that the installation will be complete within a week. A dedication ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. June 15, followed by a picnic fund-raiser hosted by the Nebraska Art Association.

To view a photo of Roxy Paine working on one branch of the tree, go to this link.

Paine was born in 1966 and attended Santa Fe College in New Mexico and Pratt Institute in New York City before leaving school to devote full time to his art. Since then, he has won attention for two distinctive bodies of work, both of which address issues of paradox and illusion. On one hand, Paine creates disconcertingly detailed plant forms, including poppies and mushrooms, which replicate natural phenomena; on the other, his art-making machines produce abstract sculptures or paintings and reference mechanical processes. Both have been featured in one-person exhibitions in France, Germany and Switzerland, as well as throughout the United States.

Paine installed his first large-scale tree, "Imposter," at the Wanas Foundation in southern Sweden five years ago; his 50-foot-tall tree, "Bluff," was on view in New York City's Central Park for four months during the 2002 Whitney Biennale before it was moved to a private collection. Paine has installed other trees in Cadiz, Spain, Akron, Ohio, and Seattle. The new work, commissioned for the Sheldon sculpture collection with private funds, is Paine's first major sculpture in this region.

While his stainless steel trees assume naturalistic forms, like all of Paine's works, they explore interactions between nature and artifice in our environment. They are placed in contexts where they are at once integral and apart, calling attention to how the surrounding landscapes -- while apparently natural -- are likewise human interventions. The Sheldon tree, unlike Paine's other trees, will appear scarred, perhaps damaged by lightning or high wind, and suggests the impact of history while retaining a pristine surface. Its placement is important to Paine, who seeks to engage viewers by presenting an unexpected form in association with the objects it mimics.

"Roxy Paine's sculpture promises to offer changing visual experiences," Driesbach said. "Its barren silver branches will contrast with the thick foliage of nearby trees and green grass during the summer months. Then in winter its color and form will be closer to, but more reflective than, those of its neighbors. Nebraska's changing skies will also certainly impact how the sculpture is perceived on a given day."

Driesbach notes that while Paine selected the site with UNL landscape designers for its visual characteristics, his tree is also appropriately placed conceptually in the Donaldson Garden, which is devoted to introduced species.

The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery sculpture garden includes nearly 30 sculptures by artists working throughout the United States during the 20th century. Paine's tree will be the first 21st-century sculpture to be installed on campus. It represents the work of an important younger artist who uses a naturalistic style to explore contemporary issues.

The tree, as yet untitled, was commissioned from the artist for $275,000 with funds from the Olga Sheldon Endowment, based on enthusiasm for his earlier work and the maquette, or study, Paine submitted after he visited Lincoln in November 2002.

CONTACT: Jessica Kennedy, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, (402) 472-1197