Wood You Get a Load of These Trees

LD_0414_PercocoTreesB_0010Some new trees have suddenly sprouted on the Drew campus.

There is a palm tree, a pine tree and one that appears to be growing dollar bills instead of leaves.

These latest additions to the Drew landscape is a public sculpture titled “New Growth” by artist and alumna Anne Percoco ’05. The plywood trees used in “New Growth” depict images of trees Percoco found in the local yellow pages. The exhibit, she says, juxtaposes man-made nature with the natural world.

“I’m interested in people’s relationships to the environment,” she says.

Percoco’s sculpture was displayed last year at Randall’s Island in New York City and she said observers’ reactions to them varied. Visitors picnicked, played Hide and Seek, took photographs and enjoyed the trees as if they were real, she notes.

She says her purpose is twofold—to challenge the idea of what a tree is by placing these whimsical and cartoonish trees in the midst of actual trees—and to encourage people to have fun with them.

Percoco’s exhibit is underwritten by Drew’s three-year $625,000 Andrew W. Mellon grant Arts and the Common Good, which encourages interdisciplinary study in exploring issues that impact the community, the nation and the world.

“It’s the first long-term public art project we’ve had on campus since I arrived in 2008,” says Associate Professor Kim Rhodes, who is overseeing the grant. She says Percoco’s trees could be the catalyst for an expansive conversation on topics such as environmental studies, landscape design and other subjects.

Percoco, 31, majored in art and art history at Drew, got her Masters in Fine Arts at Rutgers and lives in Jersey City. She says she uses the theme of nature in much of her art. Another sculpture she designed out of empty water bottles resembles a cloud, which she floated down a river in India to underscore the problem of local pollution.

Percoco says “New Growth” is perfect for Drew, aka The University in the Forest. “This challenges our idea of what a tree is. . . At Drew, there’s all these trees around. It’s interesting to look at the fake trees next to the real trees.”

The installation will be up through October.—Liz Moore