The Chicago Tree Project

Anthony Heinz May

Progress > (Product)

Jackson Park

2016

This piece has been deinstalled.

Natura Non Confundenda Est

McKinley Park

2017

La Gioconda

Columbus Park
on lagoon

2019

Human stewardship of natural environments through systematic caretaking procures nature as an entity that is tended to, versus being inherently part of.  Any preservation of nature by humans is largely impossible without first preserving the natural being.  Technological defacement of the original connections humans hold with Earth prevents true human progress, and is largely designed and dedicated through technological advancement of product.  This straying from autonomous freewill promotes institutional pedagogies regulated by dehumanization, and through oppression.  Issues concerning overpopulation, impoverishment and inequality are not solved by new technologies but rather extended by way of apathy, placation and insularism, while ostracizing self from being as a natural life form of Earth. My appropriations of tree refuse identify as physically pixelated forms reflecting relationships between nature, humans and technology. These sculptures appear as fragmented puzzles that are cubed and rearranged in space. Insects and natural cycles reclaim the sculptural assemblages, becoming time-based performances of nature that slowly change through natural cycles of degradation. These objects encourage eco-pedagogical discourse on the importance of nature and natural patterns as opposed to technological apparatus of its breakup. Pixelated modular blocks of material suspend in space above natural bases to provide an inverted dissolve of nature as if through a surreally artificiaal and anthropocentric lens.
Natura Non Confundenda Est translates from Vulgar Latin roughly as “Do Not Confuse Mother Nature.” The modern meaning behind my sculpture when coupled with its title is rather intuitive. Evidently the colloquial itself (as a way of life), passed down through ancient human intuition and inherent to being human, is long deceased. When nature is confused or challenged, so too are its offsets, which are represented by all life of Earth. Digitization of the physical world has rearranged and brought new defining purpose of being human. An injustice to nature, this cataclysmic operation of repurposing mocks reality, transcends and eventually destroys what holds existence and life in breath. Redefining what it means to be human requires the dissolve of being through a process of self-immolation without having to physically set oneself aflame. Within the engulfing pit of charred embers will nature continue to be questioned as relevant to being human. Only after arteries and veins of Earth run dry and soils vamped to fissured cracks will the burning question between humans and nature be answered.
Wisps of cubed block chains from woody material of a rotted and dying ash tree are reminiscent of singular human hair strands that might otherwise signify a frazzled, sick or unhealthy condition.  The parody provides a dying aesthetic as found within ash trees, where what was once considered beautiful has succumbed to a slow death by infestation of the emerald ash borer. This sculpture simultaneously allows for death and demise of natural aestheticism while claiming a wholly human constructed one.  In continuing direct blasphemy of Leonardo Da Vinci and his masterpiece (the Mona Lisa, otherwise known as La Gioconda), which is constantly appropriated for advertising and constant reinvention by modern lore for materialism—this sculpture from a dying tree is yet another example of conceptual theft of Da Vinci in title.  As response to Duchamp and Dali alongside many other modernist thinkers and makers, the sculpture takes a once living and breathing aesthetic and creates something anew in appropriation of how and why the definition of beauty changes.  In title this sculpture mocks and rejects accepted beauty and narcissism invested in contemporary adverts, which create a façade of reality through image-based society consumerism and with a pastiche mentality.  The conundrum of any work implies (like everything that possesses life or created through existence of life) merely as a transition into the annals of whatever exists beyond.  As witnessed over a history of time, the epitaph of what existed before is ultimately all that remains in the end.
Progress > (Product)
Natura Non Confundenda Est
La Gioconda