The Tree Publisher: Erik Linton

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ERIK LINTON TRAVELS THE WORLD IN SEARCH OF NATURALLY FALLEN TREES. FROM THEIR CROSS CUTS, HE CREATES UNIQUE PIECES OF ART THAT BRING TO LIGHT THE OTHERWISE HIDDEN BEAUTY AND ENDLESS INDIVIDUALITY OF THE FORESTS AROUND US. WE SAT DOWN WITH ERIK TO HEAR MORE ABOUT HIS PROCESS DEVELOPING THIS UNIQUE MEDIUM, AND WHAT HE’S LEARNED FROM WORKING CLOSELY WITH THESE TIMBER TIME CAPSULES.

 

Let’s face it, we’ve all been confronted with a new reality lately. So much of what seemed sure and unchangeable just a few months ago now seems delicate at best. There’s no doubt that we are living through a historic time. We hear fear coming through our televisions and our computer screens. It seems that any issue has to be bitterly argued and fought over. But here’s what I’ve seen firsthand. I see handwritten letters in my mailbox. I see signs in windows and on front lawns congratulating married couples, welcoming new babies, celebrating the class of 2020. There have been baked goods on doorsteps, sidewalk chalk murals, flowers outside nursing home windows. I see people slowing down, noticing, and appreciating things that may have previously gone neglected. There are things that have expanded when others have contracted.
"The rings of the tree are like fingerprints from Mother Nature; no two are exactly alike. Each tree tells its own story"
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This tree was one of the many trees burned by the Yellowstone fires in 1988. This cut was taken from a charred stump of what was most likely a large pine. The irregular and jagged shape of this print is due to the fire damage that killed the tree.

Over the last few years, I have traveled the world collecting samples of fallen trees, and each one of them is completely unique. The rings of the tree are like fingerprints from Mother Nature; no two are exactly alike. Each tree tells its own story of a place and time. Where some have grown quickly, with thick rings, I see a story of abundance and little opposition to growth.

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Other trees show years where rain was scarce and the tree had to conserve its energy in order to just survive. The growth in the tree rings at these times is nearly imperceptible. To me, these are the interesting stories—the ones that show prudence in the face of hardship. Interestingly, these are also the trees that grow the strongest wood. There is wisdom for us in the stories told by these trees. They tell us that the best way to respond to a crisis is to slow down and focus on what matters most. This is how we get through uncertainty. We bake more.

“I’m merely taking these stories that have been written by the trees, some nearly a thousand years old, and sharing them.”

I’ve been a full-time artist for five years now, and I have spent much of that time looking at the things around us that are easily overlooked. I try to present those things in unfamiliar ways in order to enhance our appreciation of them. Working with these trees, I’ve begun to view myself as a publisher as much as an artist: I’m merely taking these stories that have been written by the trees, some nearly a thousand years old, and sharing them.

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I want my artwork to remind people that we all have a responsibility to be good stewards as we care for the natural world around us, and also that we have an opportunity to learn from nature how we might live generously with each other.