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Arts & Culture

Wood Ear: Exploring the Feelings of Trees


As Virginia trees burst into flower, as their leaves unfurl, nature lovers delight, but how do trees feel in the spring?  That’s what artist Peter Traub wondered as he created a multi-media work entitled Wood Ear. 

There’s a black gum tree in Peter Traub’s backyard, and for a few years now he’s been thinking about what that tree feels as the light levels, wind and temperatures change.  To explore that subject, he attached sensors to its trunk and branches.  As it gets colder or warmer outside, one of his art works emits a tone.
Another work features 24 pictures of the tree – one in each hour of the day and night.

“So if you were to look at this projection at midnight, you would see photos from midnight, and in the morning there are photos from the morning.”

Light sensors transmit data to a computer that converts changing levels into colorful shapes that float across the image of the tree, adding motion and texture to the mix.

“If I’m sitting at home, let’s say, and watching this piece and a cloud comes over, that data change on the tree is reflected almost immediately.  The circles become smaller and they move slower.”

An earlier version of the work was unveiled in New York last spring, and Traub plans a new incarnation at UVA’s Ruffin Gallery August 29 involving dancers and video. 

The show is up through Friday evening (May 2) at 8 at Charlottesville’s Bridge Gallery.