Shannon Egan, Gettysburg College
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Hybridized fruit trees, grafted orchids on shiny, reflective aluminum pedestals, fluorescent lights placed vertically on stands, and sheets of silver Mylar create a lush and somewhat disorienting space in contemporary artist Sam Van Aken’s most recent body of work New Edens. Van Aken makes Gettysburg College’s Schmucker Art Gallery into a kind of fantastical and futuristic winter garden. Without daylight and despite the cool fall weather of the Northeast, the dozen trees in the gallery are leafy and green, some even bearing fruit. Peach, plum, cherry, nectarine and apricot branches emerge from a single trunk and grow productively alongside their sister fruits. These surprising new plants, carefully designed and created by the artist, are titled Trees of 40 Fruits, and as time passes the artist will continue to graft more branches of various kinds of fruits onto each “parent” rootstock until he has reached forty. The saplings on display are relatively small, but eventually these trees will reach an approximate height of twenty feet. Van Aken created a nursery as part of his studio in Syracuse, New York. As an artist-cum-horticulturalist, he, like a nurturing parent, cares for his grafted fruit trees with a steadfast devotion. In his studio Van Aken carefully concocts the best fertilizers, waters carefully and diligently, removes hoards of Japanese beetles from the leaves one-by-one, and provides adequate warmth and protection for the young trees (with huge mounds of mulch and careful wrappings) during harsh New York winters. [excerpt]
Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College
horticulture, Sam Van Aken, Genesis, new eden
Egan, Shannon, "Sam Van Aken: New Edens" (2011). Schmucker Art Catalogs. 1.