My Tree Art Story

For the past eight years, I have been painting and drawing the oldest, largest, and most noteworthy trees that I can find near my home and in my travels. I often use the the publications, The National Register of Big Trees or New Jersey's Biggest Trees, as guides. Several of the old trees that I refer to in my work are located in New Jersey where I live. For example, a 600 year old White Oak, and the biggest Silver Maple in NJ, are both in the small town of Basking Ridge, about 8 miles from my house. I have painted the 400 year old Salem Oak in southern NJ, the oldest Plains Cottonwood Tree in the USA, in Hygiene, Colorado, the country's largest Pinyon Pine, in Cuba, New Mexico, and the oldest Cypress in Europe, in Verona, Italy, among many others.

This work has evolved in many ways. At one time the tree paintings began to look human with anthropomorphic references here and there, and I was especially surprised during a summer of painting in Venice when the symbol of the cross unexpectedly entered the compositions.

Later, I began combining traditional and digital media, using the Venice works as source material. Then came primal tree shapes made with luscious shiny satin fabric. That work was exhibited at MyungSook Lee Gallery in SoHo in March 1998. In February 1999, it was included in the "Contemporary American and Korean Artists Invitational" at the Cho Hyung Gallery in Seoul, Korea, and in May 2000, at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado.

Currently, I am working on a series of "Tree Scrolls", inspired by my trip to China and Tibet. I documented many of the extraordinary trees that I saw there with photos and drawings, and eventually hope to develop a China section for the Web project.

Lately, ten works on paper from the Venice Series were selected for Figuracio' 2002-2003, an international juried exhibition, at Galerie Tuset in Barcelona, Spain.

My paintings of old trees provided a strong basis for the aesthetic inquiry for my doctoral research at New York University. From that grounding of actual art works, I proceeded to develop this ecology art education project on the World Wide Web, "A World Community of Old Trees," and invited the world to join in. The title of my dissertation is"Ecology Art Education On-Line: "A World Community of Old Trees."

Although I officially graduated from NYU in May 1997, the tree project continues to be hosted by the university. It has been seven years since it was first launched on February 9, 1996, and now it seems to have a life of its own.

New chapters of my tree story have been unfolding in the most wonderful ways! I am happy to announce that I have developed two new Distance Learning Courses inspired by the tree project. At Ohio University during Summer Quarter 2000 and Winter Quarter 2001, I taught "Ecology Art Education On-Line", where students created tree pages on interesting trees in their state. During the Summer Session 2002 at Kean University, I launched a new online course, "Art and Nature", which will be offered again there this summer. Also, for this summer 2003, I will be teaching "Art & Nature" as a hybrid course (part online and part on campus) at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Now you can participate in "A World Community of Old Trees" and get university credit, too!

As a researcher, artist, and tree lover, I am overjoyed to be able to gather the most extraordinary trees of the world from the people who love them the best into this truly collaborative celebration. Won't you please join us?

- June Julian

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