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A tree dies in Montrose: Controversial Art Guys project at Menil Park is vandalized

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The vandalized tree  Photo by Clifford Pugh
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The tree at its dedication Photo via TheArtGuys.com
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Menil officials discovered the tree had been vandalized on Saturday morning. Photo by Clifford Pugh
News_Art Guys_tree vandal_Dec 2011
News_The Art Guys_marry plant_installation
News_Art Guys_tree vandal_Dec 2011

Houston has lost millions of trees in the past few months because of the long drought. On Friday night, the city lost another oak — this time as a result of vandals.

The eight-year-old tree was planted at Menil Park as the focal point of the controversial Art Guys Marry a Plant project. On Saturday morning Menil security officals discovered the tree had been snapped in two and alerted the Houston Police Department, which is investigating the incident.

The recent tree planting was the second part to The Art Guy’s absurdist performance piece in which the artist duo of Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing wed a live oak in a public ceremony in 2009. Last month, nearly 80 guests watched acclaimed writer Lawrence Weschler officiate a service to formally recognize the married tree as a permanent part of the Menil Collection holdings. A bronze plaque marked the installation.

Former Houston Chronicle arts writer Douglas Britt, claiming the work devalues gay marriage, had protested the tree dedication by staging his own counter marriage to Houston art publicist Reese Darby. Britt told CultureMap he viewed his arrangement with Reese as a legal “gesture of civil obedience” that comments on the manner in which The Art Guys "ignore the social context” surrounding their tree marriage.

Galbreth and Massing said they support gay marriage rights and insist their intent for the project was to use the act of marriage in the broadest sense, an ancient formal union between two abstract entities.

Britt, who now goes by the name of Devon Britt-Darby, left the Chronicle last week after posting a series of video rants in which he talked about his days as an escort and embarked on a road trip to retrace his colorful past. His most recent post occurred today from Miami.

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