Nothing is as motionless as it appears. Even trees that we imagine are steadfast are constantly on the move, branching upward and outward according to a Fibonacci sequence of spiraling, increasing numbers, building drama slowly but inexorably like refrains in poetry. Then there's the unexpected twist, when trees do something to make you pay attention and notice who they are. A branch bends, a bud emerges, two leaves cling, a stump exposes itself: In that moment a tree breaks apart from the scenery, and becomes independent of its context. It could be in a garden or a Safeway parking lot, and still be pursuing its own invisible agenda. We may decide where to place trees, but they decide the rest.
Noticing trees, reading poetry, and drawing have all been part of my practice in making woodblock portraits. But in carving images of fellow immigrants into wood, I came to appreciate how wood and trees themselves have their own sense of movement to express. There are stirring passages of emptiness, straight lines that suddenly knot or kink. Most of the fragments seen in these Rootless works are samples of trees that now live in the city, but were transplanted from someplace else. In this case, the city is San Francisco, and the trees mainly originate in rural Australia -- they are more worldly than they seem.
These tree samples are not scientific specimens, but refrains that reverberate and catch in the back of the throat like a line of a song. Each tree seems to demand its own poetry, so it's been paired with a line that resonates accordingly, that repeats and increases the moment like a Fibonacci number. The line chosen seems as intimately familiar as a tree branch, even when its origins are elsewhere, in Chile, Japan, Poland, China, or Germany (Neruda, Takahashi, Szymborska, Li Po, Rilke). Even out of context, words and nature make their own sense. In the end, a tree's life cycle is not so different from a cycle of poetry: we can only take in so much at once before it overwhelms us.