If there was ever any doubt that art could incite advocacy for causes outside of artistic pursuits, Houston Center for Photography's "SPIN8: Put a Tree On It" crowdsourcing party Friday night shot that myth to hell.
Part friend-raiser, part easygoing art exhibit and part crafty social, SPIN8 amassed 500 tree-themed photographs, mostly sized at 8 by 10 inches, submitted by anyone who heeded the call for submissions a month prior, conspiring with Trees for Houston to raise awareness about the city's canopy, which took a devastating hit after last year's relentless drought.
Yet all was blooming and verdant at this one-weekend show where everyone was a photographer and some distinguished themselves as artistes alongside others who were already well respected in the field.
Take Mike Marvins, who with his wife Mickey were top supporters of the event. He's a fellow of the American Society of Photographers and the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, has traveled by car, on foot and on horseback to capture stunning images of Texas Big Bend. In Cypress, Marvins' seemingly symmetrical composition of side-by-side trunks as they rise to a clear blue sky with a fiery auburn backdrop nods to the destructive 2011 Texas wildfires that blazed through nearly four million acres.
In Will Michels environmental portrait Muir III, the artist plays with the effect of a ray of light as it suffuses thick foliage, reminiscent of a chiaroscuro technique, as if undisturbed by man.
Tomiko Jones' poetic L'arbre du St. Ambreuil sharply zooms in on the life source of arboriculture. Black-and-white ripples in a pool of water warps the reflection of a lonesome barren tree in contrast to a grayish, cloudy sky. Out-of-focus limbs and a person in the middle ground beg for a narrative interpretation and comment on survival amid a harsh and desolate environment.
Colin Blakely's Lighted Tree shows a sumptuous specimen bedazzled with lights complemented by a dreamy starry welkin.
In Will Michels environmental portrait Muir III, the artist plays with the effect of a ray of light as it suffuses thick foliage, reminiscent of a chiaroscuro technique, as if undisturbed by man. His Muir Series pays homage to John Muir, an American preservation advocate whose efforts contributed to saving the wilderness of Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park.
In the company of works by Sharon Stewart, Susan Hayre and Galena Kurlat, whose image served as the event's poster, Rebecca Finley's Armory NYC interposed nature and industrial development with an image of a tree that ached to endure despite being engulfed by commercial restraints. Melissa Noble's Untitled portrayed two musicians playing a Native American flute and a folk guitar while resting on the branches of a mature tree.
You may recognize Jenny Antill's name from her inexhaustible work as a social photographer. Yet in her Charles Tapley and a Rosebud at Tapley Tributary she memorializes an important Buffalo Bayou caretaker and architect who was a champion for native wildflowers and wetlands, and whose vision lives in the granite steps, seating areas and channels of the waterway's western sector.
An early photograph of the grounds at Discovery Green freezes two cranes lifting and moving a fully-grown tree in an attempt to safeguard it from improvements to the property.
It was David Marks' GRB Live Oak Trees that resonated with Houston's spirit of conservation. An early photograph of the grounds at Discovery Green freezes two cranes lifting and moving a fully-grown tree in an attempt to safeguard it from improvements to the property.
As kids and adults perused the assemblage of photographs, they participated in a photography scavenger hunt for everyday objects that resembled letters of the alphabet, later to be collectively arranged to piece together words like foliage, leaves and Trees for Houston. Atop a large silhouette of a tree fashioned by adhering plastic tape to a wall, guests were asked to bring in photographs of close-ups of tree parts to contribute to a large communal tree collage.
Others chose to take in the theme more literally, posing with whimsical accessories in the Funky Monkey Photobooth and in a wedding-type arbor crafted with fabric and driftwood. Plenty of arts and crafts, food by Good Dog Hot Dogs, H&H Ice Cream and Firehouse Tacos food truck, drinks courtesy of Real Ale Brewing Co. and tunes by Gracie Chavez, morphed this opening into an active artsy affair that did its part to keep Houston beautiful.
Seen on the green scene were Jessica Keener, Randi Koenig, Blakely Bering, Len Kowitz, Cathy Hodge, Brooke Judice with her daughter Grace, Baylies Bering James, Ann Kasman, Michael Pearson, Patricia Eifel, Frazier King, Shelley Calton, Theresa Escobedo, Meghan Hendley, Patricia Eifel, Christopher Ashby, Natalie Zelt and Ken Standley.