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My Tribute to the Tree Poet

December 27, 2012 03:23 PM ET | Eric Levin | Permanent Link

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Yvette Lucas coaxes voices from the trees she photographs. She prints in the austere language of b&w, so (unlike me) she denies herself the intensities and subtleties of color. But in her tree portraits, this Montclair artist lays before us metaphors for the human condition.

After a recent visit to my primary care physician, I returned to my car, parked in the lot behind the Montclair house that serves as his office, and noticed a tall, ivied, V-trunked tree at the back of the property I had never noticed before.

It made me think of Yvette, a friend whose work I greatly admire. I shot two pictures, which I thought of as homages to her tree portraits. (The second one, a horizontal, will run tomorrow.)

I later sent them to her. "They are yours, not mine," she wrote me, adding generously, "but they are lovely."

To me, Yvette's tree portraits are as affecting as those of the great Robert Adams, who doesn't do tree portraits as such, but over the last half century has expressed an almost unparalleled sympathy for and identification with the ravages of the American landscape (primarily the West, in wilderness and in cities like Denver and Los Angeles) through his large-format b&w photographs (and eloquent essays in books like Why People Photograph). One of my favorite of his many books of pictures is To Make It Home.

But see for yourself.

Click here for Yvette Lucas' website. Notice that she does, in fact, shoot some color (the Living With Trees portfolio). I can stare at these pictures, drinking them in, for minutes on end, especially (in the limited selection on the website) Mushroom Tree, Tree House, Gumdrop Tree, Palm Tree Topiary and Tree & Pink Stripe.

Though identified with the American West, Robert Adams was BORN in ORANGE in 1937 and LIVED in NEW JERSEY (mostly in Madison) until his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin when he was 10.

One of his most heart-rending portfolios is Turning Back, about the clear-cutting of old-growth forest in the West. You can see a small selection here. On this same website—from his 2009 retrospective, The Place We Live, at the Yale University Art Gallery—you can look at selections from his entire body of work.

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Tags: Montclair | Madison | Orange | photography

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