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The art of trees takes root in Flushing

By Tammy Scileppi

Every year as spring nears trees seem to know that it’s time to turn green.

Ask arborist-turned-tree-artist Frank Buddingh’ and fine-art digitographer Carol Reid, and they’ll tell you that trees have a soul—and will “speak” to you if you listen closely.

Buddingh’ reminds people that “the grandest of plants to pepper our earth enable life to exist.” Purifying the air, trees also afford protected habitats to wildlife and safeguard our land from erosion and flooding. “Eliminate trees and life becomes impossible,” he warned.

The life-long bond the artists have formed with these majestic giants is quietly, yet intensely expressed through creations that echo the environmental wisdom and spirituality of the American Indians, with their ages-old appreciation of nature’s beauty and widespread belief in a Great Spirit who created the earth.

You can sense that energy in Reid’s abstract tree photos as well as in Buddingh’s organic sculptures, both of which are on view through May 1 in Queens Botanical Garden’s “Portraits of Tall Friends” exhibit. And what better place to celebrate Earth Week next month than during the Garden’s annual Arbor Fest on April 24, when visitors will be able to take a stroll through the Garden with the artists?

“We thank Frank and Carol for bringing the beauty of trees indoors to our gallery space,” QBG Executive Director Susan Lacerte said.

Reid’s exhibit features photographs that reveal the beauty of trees’ long and generous life, “captured after they called me to their side and we shared quality time in conversation,” she quipped. The artist uses Photoshop to “discover and release the abstract inner essence of their spirit.”

Buddingh’ takes a different approach. “With my TreeArt, I arrange found parts of trees as sculptures and collages,” he explained.

Buddingh’ grew up in a Dutch village, and since a world without trees was a concept he couldn’t bear, he made them the central focus of his work. In his role as arborist/tree consultant, he has met, saved and nurtured thousands of trees. That labor of love evolved into an art form.

Reid’s “Vine Dancers” series evokes an otherworldly quality, while her Olana tree trunk images bring one friendly giant’s story to life. The Olana’s intricate texture—crevices and lines, asymmetrical planes, swirls, and earthy hues—particularly caught her eye.

Her portfolio is also full of iridescent-looking florals: blue, teal and violet-hued garden close-ups titled “Solar Star,” “Tulip Duet,” and “Calla Blue,” as well as amazing leaf captures, like “blue suede,” “study in satin,” and “study in velvet.”

Employing a hand-held camera using available light to capture her subjects, the self-taught artist works from her Manhattan studio, where she creates and prints images. Reid’s trusty Epson 9880 printer recently generated her show’s signature image, “Vine Dancer 10.”

“Every digital capture contains a broad range of color and light information, most of which is ignored in creating a classic photograph,” she explained.

Having spent her young adult years in Forest Hills Gardens, Reid recalled the “giants” that still live there. “Back then, Ascan Avenue was shaded its full length by cathedral-arched branches of tall Dutch Elm trees,” she said.

Buddingh’ said he is honored to share elements of the trees which have existed on earth for millions of years with QBG visitors.

Reid added: “My photos are the voice of the trees I have had the pleasure to know. I will step back and let them speak in their own way.”

Visitors can meet the artists at two events: Arbor Fest, Sunday, April 24, at 2 pm; Closing Reception, Sunday, May 1, from 2 pm – 4 pm.

If You Go

“Portraits of Tall Friends”

When: Through May 1

Where: Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing

Cost: Free through March 31; After April 1 — $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/students with ID and children over 3.

Contact: (718) 886-3800

Website: www.queensbotanical.org

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