If we’ve learned one thing from the Jeff Koons debate, it’s that public art is highly subjective.
That point was reinforced when Karen Skelton, a local political strategist, publicly vented (again) about her distaste for the “Blue Trees” project, and how a hint of blue still lingers on said trees (“Clean the blue trees, a blight on Sacramento”; Op Images, March 21).
Some background: In 2006, Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos first colored some trees in Melbourne with an eco-friendly blue pigment. Subsequently, he created similar temporary works in New Zealand; Vancouver, Canada; and Seattle, hoping to draw attention to global deforestation, an important issue for him. They were, in short, a hit.
Then, in 2012, I suggested in Sactown Magazine that the installation would be perfect for the “City of Trees,” and the pieces fell into place quickly.
After 20 Sacramento sycamores were bathed in blue that October, civic leaders in Houston, Atlanta and London commissioned similar projects by the artist, or “artist” as Skelton condescendingly refers to Dimopoulos, employing quotation marks to suggest he’s nothing of the kind.
Skelton also opined that it was “an idea that you would expect at an elementary school birthday party.”
On the contrary, it was an idea that was quickly embraced by our city’s preeminent art and tree champions, who commissioned the installation for Sacramento.
Among the supporters: the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, the Sacramento Tree Foundation, the Urban Land Institute, West Coast Arborists and the American Society of Landscape Architects. No public funds were used.
In 2012, Skelton inelegantly labeled the Blue Trees as “stupid.” In her latest attention-grabbing gambit, she hurled invectives like “grotesque,” “ungodly,” “hideous,” “sad” and other hyperbolic adjectives to relentlessly flog her meager point – that it’s time to clean up the faded pigment.
I don’t disagree that the remaining coloring should go, although city arborists say the color is fading naturally and they have not received a single complaint. And given the drought, they won’t be pressure-washing them anytime soon.
Perhaps an experienced “strategist” has a better plan.
And despite her assertions to the contrary, the blue trees did inspire considerable discussion (even now, apparently) and excitement.
When world-renowned pianist Conrad Tao was in town, he tweeted, “Every city needs blue trees.” The chart-topping opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick tweeted a selfie in front of them, writing, “One of my favorite new art installations are blue trees.”
But yes, Ms. Skelton, let’s explore ways to remove those last bits of harmless blue pigment, if for no other reason than to free you up to focus on more constructive cultural battles.
Your misplaced vitriol makes it abundantly clear that you’re simply barking up the wrong trees.
Rob Turner is co-editor of Sactown Magazine (www.sactownmag.com).