It all began with a fallen birch tree. As faculty at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, María Elena González encountered numerous birch trees, including those that had fallen. The artist was struck by the visual cadence of birch bark exposed on the forest floor, each piece of bark had its own repetition of lines and form. One morning, González’s imagination ran wild as she reflected on the birch trees. The lines on the bark paralleled the perforations of piano scrolls.
Could these markings on the bark be read as a music composition? If so, what would the trees sound like? González proceeded to record the bark’s patterns through a series of rubbings on paper and scans and, over the course of several years, adapted the markings to create three unique acoustical sculptures: Skowhegan Birch #1, #2, #3. González created several additional artworks related to the series, including Bark (2012), Camo (2015), Turn I & II (2016-2017), and Clave (2017), among others. Taken together, these objects, each incorporating reference to piano scrolls or the texture of birch trees, explore the possibility of sound as a sculptural material, and provide new dialogues between visual arts practice and the world of music composition.
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