Posted by: groundsforsculpture | June 2, 2010

An “Extinct Tree” and an “Extinct People” – A Message of Survival

Tova Beck-Friedman, Excerpts of a Lost Forest: Homage to Ashera, 1992. Ferro-cement, vinyl concrete, pigment. Courtesy of the Sculpture Foundation, Inc. Photo by Marcy Gekowski.

By Marcy Gekowski, Docent
 
Hitler had planned for Prague to be a museum of an “extinct people.”   He spared the city and its synagogues’ destruction, while he directed that Jewish artifacts from liquidated communities and synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia be sent there for preservation.  Today, Prague’s “museum” is a memorial to the slain, and as well serves to honor the survival of the Jewish people.
 
Behind this sculpture towers a tall, resplendent tree; and within the sculpture are saplings of the same tree, a Dawn Redwood.  A visitor on a tour I led recently told me of the tree’s history.  Millions of years ago it grew rampant in forests of the Northern hemisphere, but was thought to have been extinct today.  In 1941, it was discovered by a Chinese forester in the sparsely settled interior of the country, where it was known to local farmers, but unknown to the rest of the world. Coincidentally, also in 1941, a paleo-botanist in America was studying fossils from 1.5 million years ago of the same tree.   Having seen no living tree with similar characteristics, he too thought that he was viewing an extinct species.  He had no idea that three thousand miles away the living specimen had been rediscovered!   When this tree, which had been unknown to science, was rediscovered to be still living, it was protected and cultivated in China, as well as around the world.  In fact, it now thrives in a preserve in North Carolina.  (You can read more about the history of this tree at:  www.dawnredwood.org).
 
With its message of death and survival, this five piece sculpture of hollowed out remnants is disturbing and provocative; it stops you and makes you think.  How fitting that a tree that was considered gone, but had in fact survived, is part of its setting.
 
Like Prague, Tova-Beck Friedman’s sculpture, “Excerpts of a Lost Forest:  Homage to Ashera”, pays respect to survivors of the Holocaust; while it also portrays the horrors they endured. “Ashera” was the ancient goddess who blessed the fields and flocks of the Canaanites, the forbearers of the Israelites, who in turn were the ancestors of European Jewry. “Lost forest” alludes to the people cut down by the Holocaust; “excerpts” gives us five tortured survivors who are literally gutted by the atrocities they experienced. The black pigmented cement and concrete trees with long slits stand as witnesses.  Yet, can they speak to tell the world?  Tova-Beck Friedman builds a stage for us to enter, to hear their pain and story of survival. 

 

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Responses

  1. Marcy: your post is poetic, poignant, memorable, as well as informative. I was on the tree/garden tour with and heard the same story….but you made so much more of it.
    Thank you

    Judy

  2. Spendid post, Marcy!

  3. Thank you, Marcy, for this very moving and informative piece.


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