Standing Sentinel

An inspirational art-photo show at LongHouse urges us to honor the ‘living reminders of our heritage.’
Huntting Lane before the 1938 Hurricane.
East Hampton’s Main Street, looking south from Huntting Lane before the 1938 Hurricane.

    Landslide: Every Tree Tells a Story,” an exhibit of photographs commissioned by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, will open at Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton on April 30. The exhibit is an evocation of this year’s East Hampton Star garden supplement whose theme is, simply, trees.
    The show is part of an annual effort that began in 2003 by the foundation to bring attention to “significant at-risk parks, gardens, horticultural features, and working landscapes.”  It can be said that the South Fork is a mine of arboreal treasures — with notable trees in public places, on private estates, and in woodlands — and the exhibit includes images taken in East Hampton of American elms.
    East Hampton’s elms were nominated for inclusion by Mac Griswold of Sag Harbor, a garden historian, whose application praised the success of the Ladies Village Improvement Society in keeping elms here alive and well.
    “The elms of East Hampton, so thoughtfully cared for by the Ladies Village Improvement Society, command “the same awe and inspiration that our culture bestows on the arts, architecture, and design,” Joanne Sohn, executive assistant at LongHouse, said. “This photography exhibition of unique, unusual, and irreplaceable trees enhances our mission to bring together art and nature,” she said.
    The trees and groupings of trees chosen are, for the most part, associated with historically important people and events, which gives them meaning beyond their botanical properties. Russell Hart, a former executive editor of American Photo magazine, chose the photographers and sent them to 12 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico.
    The exhibit features “sentinel and specimen trees, allées and boulevards, urban forests, formal and vernacular trees that surround us and are living reminders of our heritage,” the press release says. It opened first on April 10 at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, N.Y., where it will remain on view, and it will travel after it closes there and at LongHouse on June 15.
    Twelve of the images displayed in a traditional gallery space in Rye will be shown outdoors at LongHouse, mounted on signboard and placed in the dunes area of the reserve’s grounds.
    Some of the exhibit’s highlights, which may be included in East Hampton and would be of interest to arborculturists  and photography aficionados, are images of a 60-by-70-foot Moreton Bay fig tree at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles; an 80-foot-tall tulip poplar in Washington, D.C., which has stood there as long as that city has been our nation’s capital; some 50 trees that make up Sycamore Row at Iowa State University;  three Louisville, Ky., parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his sons; the tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston, and three African Cloth-Bark trees from San Juan, Puerto Rico, which are approximately 50 feet tall, with a 20-foot trunk diameter, and a canopy that stretches over seven lanes of highway.
     “These aren’t just pretty pictures of old trees,” Mr. Hart said in a press release. “They are important photographers’ studies on unique specimens in context, from parklands to roadsides. Each of the 12 trees or groups of trees is seen through the lens of an artist’s sensibility in spectacular prints — and the images are as different as they could be.”
    The foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of America’s cultural landscapes.