Tree Rings

Patterson Webster
Tree Rings 2015
Stainless steel, steel
Collection of the artist


Situated next to the house at Glen Villa, this sculpture wraps metal rings around the trunk of a maple tree that was blown over in a wind storm. The bottom and top rings are laser-cut with the dates 1848 and 2014, marking the beginning and end of the tree’s life. While the year 2014 is certain, the year 1848 is not. Measuring the girth of the maple at breast height (a standard technique for determining the age of a tree) offered a range of dates. From these, the artist chose 1848 because it was the Year of Revolutions in Europe, a particularly apt birthdate for a tree circled with rings.

Between the two dated rings, additional rings of different widths suggest the changing weather patterns that caused the tree to grow more in some years than in others. A central ring sums up the many roles that the tree played over its life in the inscription “Seed, Shade, Shadow.”

The smooth, reflective steel rings contrast strikingly with the weathered, furrowed trunk they enclose, evoking the tension between permanence and change. This tension is reinforced by the ever-changing shadows cast by the decaying tree, permanently wrapped in the metal’s protective embrace.