Indira and Karl Johnson


Olympia Park
N Olympia Dr and N Avondale Ave.


Husband and wife team Karl Johnson and Indira Freitas Johnson were among the initial group of ten artists who were part of the Chicago Tree Project, whose goal was to turn dead or dying ash trees that were infested with the Emerald Ash Borer into living public art.

Ash trees renowned throughout the world for their healing properties were part of the mythical folklore of the Nordic countries and the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately, our reciprocal role was not as caring. In SOS—Questions Not Answered the Johnsons remember the ash tree and its relevance in our lives and celebrate its service to our well-being.

SOS—Questions Not Answered consists of alternating bands of Morse code and overlapping hands layered like sediment around the tree. The Morse code uses a continuous sequence of three dots, three dashes and three dots to broadcast an SOS, the international distress signal. Carved into the trunk, the Morse code bands form a bold graphic pattern while signaling both distress and a need for a deeper investigation into how to achieve balance in our ever-changing world.

According to early Eastern philosophy, order and harmony were created when human nature was aligned with the rest of nature. In SOS—Questions Not Answered, hands wrap around the tree in between the Morse code bands, reaching for that harmony and offering comfort, protection and concern. Reminiscent of bandages, the crisscrossed hands reflect on the fact that while it may be too late to heal the ash trees, their demise challenges us to think about the linkages between the shrinking global environment and native ecosystems and our connections to each other and every living thing in the universe.