Part sculpture, part painting, these wall hangings are made from pieces of a heritage Valley Oak tree from the border of Walnut Creek, CA and Contra Costa County – also known as the Boundary Oak.

The Boundary Oak, estimated to have been 325 years old, was destroyed in a windstorm in October 2019. The City of Walnut Creek, together with Bedford Gallery, offered the opportunity for 64 artists to gather pieces (small and large) from a mill yard in Concord to create original art. These artworks are part of the show If a Tree Falls: Art of the Boundary Oak.

I opted to pick up pieces that would be reasonable to hang on a wall. I was drawn to the texture of the bark from a visual perspective, and the immediacy from a tactile perspective. The bark, too, is the part of the tree that people could most easily approach.

Since the bark is so textured, I decided to focus on creating small paintings that I could attach to them. I gathered small pieces of wood and canvas that I had around, and tried out different arrangements that looked visually pleasing first.

Once I had those layouts established, I thought about the ways that people would take it all in. While looking at the unpainted layouts, I realized the shapes and arrangement mirrored the how I see images in a mobile layout.

Trunk Show: Swipe for Spread

In Instagram, I see square images in sets that I can swipe through. I echoed this format to capture the full extent of the enormous reach of its branches.

I laid these out to start with the raw inner wood, and as more of the tree comes into view, it shifts into the outer bark. I’ve seen many photos from weddings set in front of this tree, and this view, so I aimed to capture this familiar silhouette.

Trunk Show: Zoom for Details

When I look at photos, I turn my phone between portrait and landscape modes to see more detail all at once. I chose these two layouts to focus on the beauty of particular details.

The first set of details are the bark itself, where I was inspired by the detailed dot patterns of the Mexican painting style used for alebrijes. I set those against the speckled, slightly blinding view of seeing a bright daylit sky beyond the branches.

The second set of details is the canopy, a gently rounded top to highlight the leaves. I painted a slight halo in the style of HDR photo captures that attempt to balance the dynamic range of the image.

Check out this promo video that show the gallery in action! You can spot my pieces along the back wall at the 0:41 and 1:06 marks.