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The Last Gift She Gave

Is it possible to balance the manufactured with the organic, the man-made with the earth-grown? In decades to come, how will “Nature” respond to the synthetic materials that humans generate?

The Last Gift She Gave… emerged from a series of text messages, as my mother stood witness to the extraction of our family’s cedar trees, felled in exchange for an updated power grid. We shared a history with those trees. They shaded our summer gatherings, and shielded our home from winter winds. As a child I used to climb the cedars’ scraggly trunks, seeking new perspectives, hanging upside down, inadvertently collecting the sap sticking to my hands and clothes. This visceral relationship included the intimacy of hugging the branches, and breathing the spicy oils. And long before my own childhood, the trees stood strong, through multiple generations.

What is Nature worth? What does It do for us? What is It’s inherent value? Our cedar trees were part of a much larger network, in a complex ecology of plants, animals, insects, and minerals. They were homes for birds and playgrounds for squirrels. Cedar is widely known to symbolize healing, cleansing and protection. In our rural community, trees are few, as many have been cleared for farming, or sold for lumber. Without the cedars, what will protect our home from negative spirits- or filter the dust and pollution generated by large-scale farming? Statistically we can quantify a tree’s value by how much carbon it sequesters, but spiritually there is no measure. In The Last Gift She Gave… tying, binding, and wrapping are metaphors for stabilizing my personal dis-ease, and longing to reach the intangible sense of peace experienced within healthy ecosystems.

This work was made in response to the invitational exhibit Solastalgia, curated by Kristina Goransson and Charlotte Hamlin at the beautiful DeDee Shattuck Gallery in Westport, MA. Solastalgia is one of many terms that the Australian eco-psychologist, Glenn Albrecht has coined, revolving around the psychological effects of climate change. For more information please visit Mr. Albrecht's site.

Images in this gallery by Brandon Seekins and from installation at the Nona Jean Hulsey Gallery at Oklahoma City University. October 2019