Treasure the Green
By Zigi Ben-Haim
With SoHo’s sidewalks filled with visitors and lacking green space, there is a need for green oxygen in the neighborhood. Today, with the growing urgency of addressing the speed of climate change, it is important to remember the human necessity of reconnecting with the pure nature of green.
Presented by the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program in partnership with the SoHo Broadway Initiative.
Special thanks to Karissa Lidstrand, SoHo Broadway Initiative; James Cavello, Westwood Gallery; James Knight, Artist Assistant and Sebastian Grant, Administrative Assistant.
By Zigi Ben-Haim
PoeTree is a series of individually commissioned sculptures that I intend to ‘plant’ in various locations around the globe. PoeTrees are ‘trees’ of inspiration and hope.
Each PoeTree is fabricated in painted aluminum shaped as a tree, attached to a stone bench with metal stationary wheels. Four PoeTrees are already in place; two in Valbonne, France on a private estate, the third at the Heart Center of Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and the fourth in the Neeman Gardens in Tel-Aviv, Israel. A poem is carved into each bench. It is my hope that PoeTrees will inspire those who view them or use them to contemplate the ever-evolving relationship between man and nature. Each installed in its own unique environment, these trees take root in the changing culture and nature of their surroundings.
In nature a tree is native to its location and stands as witness, silently bearing memories of the past it has lived through, while at the same time, rooted in the present. PoeTrees hover between the traces of nature, culture, and humanity, as the ‘tree’ digs through layers of a given place in quest of deeper roots. The bench with wheels represents the constant seeking of humans to carry on and advance, detached from any single space. However, the poem is engraved in the stone bench and the words are inspired by the local culture.
The medium, fabricated aluminum, serves as an obvious symbol for the urban environment, and contrasts with the shape of the tree itself, symbolizing nature. The bench, man-made from natural stone, becomes the antithesis of the tree. The essence of my work lies in balancing the tension of opposites, and simultaneously highlighting the contrasts that have become second nature for the viewers or anyone living in our urban environment. This work speaks to my belief that man-made environments and nature must adopt each other in order to survive.
In each country where the PoeTree is invited to take root, the owner or the commissioner of the sculpture will choose the poem, decide on the color of the upper part of the ‘tree,’ as well as the type of stone from which the bench will be created, giving the owner an opportunity to take part in the creative process. In most cases, the stone will be native to the country where it is planted.
As the installation of these trees multiplies, I hope to create a visual conversation and a spiritual communion between nature, humanity and the different cultures we have created around the world.