BOLD: Whitewashed

“Tree Rings as Biological Archives”

Shawn Fraver, PhD
Research Associate Professor,
Forest Resources, University of Minnesota

Wood serves as a rich biological archive, preserving in its annual ring widths and other anatomical features a record of events – some remarkable, some mundane – that occurred throughout a tree’s lifespan. Interpreting this archive may reveal the dates and types of past stressors, such as insect outbreaks, windstorms, surface fires, and weather fluctuations. This historical record allows us to place in perspective the stressors, such as climate change, experienced by contemporary trees and forests.

Viewing the pattern of ring widths seen in a log’s cross-section inevitably invokes a deep and powerful connection between ourselves and trees, simply because it places us on a common time scale. We recognize, through the linear progression of time, the shared processes of birth, growth through favorable and unfavorable conditions, and ultimately death. And on an annual time scale, those of us living distant from the Earth’s equator easily relate to the common cycle of summer activity and winter dormancy.

But this connection extends beyond the individual to include a wide swath of recent human history. The Douglas fir exhibited here became established roughly during the first Crusade (ca. 1100); its life ended during WWI. We cannot help but think of the extraordinary human events that occurred during those 800 years, not the least of which is the industrial revolution and the attendant threats to Earth’s biota and climate. What stories will tree rings share with us over the next 800 years?

read more about the exhibition...

Opening May 22, 2014
Isaac Delgado Fine Arts Gallery
Delgado Community College, City Park Campus
Building 1, Third Floor
615 City Park Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119

Exhibit dates are May 22 - August 28, 2014
There will be a closing reception and artist talk on August 28, 5 - 7 p.m.

Summer gallery hours:
Monday - Thursday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The public is welcome and there is no admission charge. For further information contact Brenda Hanegan, gallery director, at 504-671-6377, or

Original exhibition curated by David Francis
Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, WA