This is Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon. She died on September 1, 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo. Shortly thereafter, her body was packed in ice and sent by railroad to Washington, DC, to become a part of the National Museum of Natural History’s collection as a lasting legacy of the harm that can be done to the natural world by humans. Just decades prior, the Passenger Pigeon was the most abundant bird in North America. The disappearance of the species helped ignite the modern conservation movement.
The Smithsonian Libraries, National Museum of Natural History, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library will be hosting a Twitter Chat on September 2, 2014 from 2-3 pm Eastern Time. This is your chance to ask questions about the Passenger Pigeon, extinction, and biodiversity literature.
Tree of 12 Metres was made by scraping away the wood from a felled tree, which had first been roughly sawn into a beam, to reveal its internal structure of narrow core and developing branches. Penone’s aim was to return the tree to the form it had had at an earlier stage of its growth, making visible natural processes which are normally hidden. He made the first of his Albero or Tree works in 1969. In 1970 two Trees of 12 Metres were made as performances in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and at the Aktionsraum, Munich. These early Trees were still partially attached to the industrially-sawn beams into which they had disappeared and from which they now emerged like sculpturalreliefs. In this semi-emergent state they were supported horizontally or propped diagonally against the wall in the space in which they were exhibited. With experience, Penone was able to work on increasingly thicker beams which contained the tree’s entire core and to cut all the background support away, freeing the tree’s centre so that it could stand vertically on its own. In the early 1980s he began to leave short lengths of the beams untouched to provide free-standing bases, from which the forms of the younger trees arise. In this version of the Tree of 12 Metresthe artist has left top and bottom ends still trapped inside the beam. A cut at the vertical mid-point has converted it into two pieces, each of which stands on a base formed by the remnant of the beam. The top part of the tree is thus inverted.