A new site specific public art installation created by artist Susan Stair

Susan Stair, Roots on Fire, 2019.

Harlem Art Park, East 120th Street, btw. Lexington and 3rd

Opening Reception: Sunday Sept. 29, 2019 – 4:00 – 6:00 pm

Roots on Fire, is a low relief sculpture, extending 25’ along the patina of decorative fence in Harlem Art Park reflecting how groups of people like trees establish roots, creating extended families within the historically immigrant neighborhood of East Harlem.

With Roots on Fire, Stair integrates clay casts of the London Plane Trees in Harlem Art Park, the Osage Orange and Sweet Gum Tree in nearby Marcus Garvey Park with Tile Mosaics representing the national flags of East Harlem’s diverse inhabitants and immigrant populations over the past century.

Stair is both informed and passionate about trees, bringing the 70’s term “tree hugger” into the present conversation about climate change and immigration. The Harlem based artist has been studying how trees communicate through their root systems essentially sharing resources and information when planted in a group, in a forest or urban park.

Stair created the mosaic flags undulating throughout the sculpture recognizing that they still fly in the hearts of many of East Harlem’s residents. The Puerto Rican flag is dominantly cascading from the top of the sculpture. Stair included flags from the Dominican Republic, Italy, Cuba, Mexico as well as the African Flag leading into flags that represent the African diaspora including Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Haiti, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Cameroon.  Stair has said “Many more flags should be added”.

Susan Stair

(b 1954, Philadelphia, PA)

Stair a multimedia artist based in Harlem has lived and worked in the US and Asia exhibiting in New York, Manila, Hong Kong and Tokyo with recent public art installations in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem and Conference House Park, Staten Island.

Stair works in the tradition of landscape painting creating a sense of space and place. Her work uses clay impressions of tree bark, which can be read as Braille, to reveal the story of race, age, damage, survival and renewal in the urban landscape.

Tree portraits, as she refers to them, are inspired by the work of Simmard and Wohlleben, two scientists who study how trees live in community. Trees like people establish integrated support networks to communicate. Trees talk to each other through their root systems, called the Wood Wide Web.

Stair’s work informs the viewer so that they will never see trees the same way again.

Stair was awarded funding from UMEZ Arts Engagement, partnering with the Public Art Initiative of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance to bring the installation to life

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