Presence. Simplicity. Water. Trees.
What do all of these have in common? Each is in short supply these days, as climate change impacts our globe and screen time complicates our mind-body connection. An artist deeply involved in socio-environmental issues, Oscar Tuazon seeks to draw a correlation between climate change, our minds, and bodies through Growth Rings, his site-specific work for Central Wharf Park and its twenty-four oak trees.
Guest curated by Pedro Alonzo, Growth Rings is comprised of three large-scale wooden rings suspended between the trunks of the living trees punctuating the park. Each ring stands independently but is sunk into the ground, simulating the way in which growth rises from the earth. Creating a portal and orienting a sight-line through the trees to the water, Growth Rings is a delicate, graceful gesture that highlights the interconnectivity of water, trees, and human life. Made simply from high-grade Douglas fir and glue, each element of the rings is necessary for the other, accentuating the symbiosis of all living things.
The fir is formed into a circle using a method akin to how boats were traditionally made, recalling Boston’s historic commercial waterfront. Today, Central Wharf Park sits between busy Atlantic Avenue and the New England Aquarium, with the ocean beyond; centuries ago it was a bustling, international port of entry to the Northeast. But even before that, the land and water were stewarded by native Wampanoag people who moved seasonally up and down the New England coast until the 17th century.
Growth Rings “represents the bond between humanity and nature, something that we’ve forgotten,” says curator Alonzo. “Trees need us now more than ever, nature is dependent on us and we need to safeguard it.”
Tuazon has long been invested in ecology, land and water use. As a high-schooler in the Pacific Northwest, he learned the Lushootseed language, spoken by native people of the Salish Sea. Years later, he joined the water protesters at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. And most recently, Tuazon initiated the Los Angeles Water School (LAWS), a series of public programs dedicated to exploring the city’s water supply through local history, architecture, ecology, and colonialism lenses. Meanwhile, Tuazon’s site-specific sculpture has been shown around the world. No matter the location, Tuazon is cognizant of microcosms and local contexts, to stories that might be buried just under the surface of mainstream narratives. His work is both socially-engaged and minimal, aesthetically unadorned but conceptually complex, highlighting the multiplicity of history by creating a moment to be present.
The second project of Now + There’s 2019 New Codes season, Growth Rings provides ample space for reflection on our time and place both locally and globally. Placed in such a busy area of Boston, Growth Rings will cultivate a sense of togetherness and shared connectedness to the land and sea. Using a simple, classic form--a circle--Growth Rings reestablishes Central Wharf Park as a place to contemplate our current and historic use of land, water, and trees. In the midst of the city, Growth Rings offers a different presence, one focused on sharing our environmental resources and connecting with each other.
“What’s most interested me about the Central Wharf site was the trees,” says curator Alonzo. “Oscar understands nature, and how he incorporates it into his work has a spiritual, real quality.”
New Codes is comprised of nine projects over the summer of 2019 that address equity and access, examine our broken social structures, and create opportunities to reflect together on the positive changes we want to see in our city. Specializing in projects that transcend museum walls, Pedro Alonzo’s curation of Tuazon for Central Wharf allows for a reinterpretation and rejuvenation of the familiar downtown park. New Codes celebrates difference, perseverance, and resistance.