tree trunks that look like steamed crab claws - click images for large viewThis is the scene in Grant Park just west of Lake Shore Drive. Last winter, in their unending efforts to transcend the paltry limitations of nature, the Chicago Park District slapped yellow and orange paint on a bunch of defunct Lincoln Park trees slated for removal. This year another seven trees were marked "condemned" with an overlay of blue and orange. In April, director of natural resources Adam Schwerner, while declining to disclose which distant Daley relative got the contract for this brainstorm, said it was a "nature exhibition . . . to engage people in the parks in a different way." (Your smart-ass remark inserted here.)
The Painted Forest ransacked local nurseries for 100 dead, leafless trees, done up in "vivid orange and yellow hues . . . installed by drilling holes into the ground and then back-filling the holes with gravel for maximum stability." Schwerner said the idea was to "provide a colorful focal point [during] the monochromatic season." Well, anyone who's actually ventured outside and seen the lush foliage our recent monsoons have produced, we're a long way from the drear of the winter, but that hasn't stopped the Park District from moving their Painted Forest to "Daffodil Hill" in Grant Park, just west of LSD and south of the of the Cancer's Survivor Garden.
Even as, a little to the north, architect David Woodhouse carefully placed his new DuSable Harbor building into a natural berm, the Park District trashes Grant Park with the synthetic. As art, Painted Forest has a certain fascination. It might, floodlit in winter's dark days, divert. In the warm sun and bloom of summer, however, it's an intrusion, cheap and garish.
Olmsted and Jensen are probably turning over in their graves, but I ask you: what dead trees did they plant?