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Acclaimed artist Katie Holten visits Hallwalls for book launch, Artpark for tree workshop


Mon, Apr 24th 2023 09:35 am

Katie Holten is collaborating with Western New York cultural organizations Artpark & Company, Talking Leaves…Books, Western New York Book Arts Center, and Hallwalls to present a free tree workshop and launch the publication of “The Language of Trees.”

An Irish-born, Brooklyn-based artist and activist Holten will participate in a 7 p.m. book launch at Hallwalls in Buffalo on Friday, May 19, and then visit Lewiston for a special tree workshop and book signing from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21. These two free events are organized on occasion of the U.S. launch of her new publication, “The Language of Trees” (Tin House).

A press release stated, “Inspired by forests, trees, leaves, roots and seeds, ‘The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape’ invites readers to discover an unexpected and imaginative language to better read and write the natural world around us, and reclaim our relationship with it. In this gorgeously illustrated and deeply thoughtful collection, Katie Holten gifts readers her tree alphabet and uses it to masterfully translate and illuminate beloved lost and new, original writing in praise of the natural world.

“With an introduction from Ross Gay, and featuring writings from over 50 contributors – including Ursula K. Le Guin, Ada Limón, Robert Macfarlane, Zadie Smith, Radiohead, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, James Gleick, Elizabeth Kolbert, Plato and Robin Wall Kimmerer – Holten illustrates each selection with an abiding love and reverence for the magic of trees. She guides readers on a journey from creation myths and cave paintings to the death of a 3,500-year-old cypress tree, from tree clocks in Mongolia and forest fragments in the Amazon, to the language of fossil poetry, unearthing a new way to see the natural beauty all around us, and an urgent reminder of what could happen if we allow it to slip away.

“ ‘The Language of Trees’ considers our relationship with literature and landscape, resulting in an astonishing fusion of storytelling and art, and a deeply beautiful celebration of trees through the ages.”

At Hallwalls (341 Delaware Ave.), Holten will be in conversation with Patty Krawec, author of “Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future.” Both authors will sign books after the talk.

The press release noted, “Hallwalls and Talking Leaves have supported the creation and presentation of literary arts in Western New York for over 40 years and are proud to do so in partnership. Decades of collaboration include book readings and signings, writer residencies, literary festivals, film screenings and a variety of immersive programming.”

Then, on May 21, Artpark will host Holten’s tree workshop at 450 S. Fourth St. Participants of all ages are invited to Lewiston to consider art, nature and creativity through a series of special guided, drop-in events. Free activities include:

√ Screen printing and bookmaking, in collaboration with Western New York Book Arts Center

√ Tree drawings utilizing the artist’s “tree alphabet,” a font Holten designed to consider experiences of language and nature 

√ Tree walks, guided by Mark Gallo, professor of biology at Niagara University

√ Discussion between Holten and Krawec

√ A book signing with Holten, Krawec and others, in collaboration with Talking Leaves…Books.

The press release added, “Through this tree workshop, Holten encourages parkgoers to adopt a greater understanding of the natural environment, and consider the urgent issues associated with the climate emergency.

In 2003, Holten represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale. She has had solo exhibitions at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Nevada Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Her drawings “investigate the entangled relationships between humans and the natural world.” She has created tree alphabets, a stone alphabet, and a wildflower alphabet to share the joy she finds in her love of the more-than-human world. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Artforum and frieze. She is a visiting lecturer at the New School of the Anthropocene. If she could be a tree, she would be an oak.

Artpark is a park and a cultural institution established in 1974. It is a collaboration between the New York State Parks and the cultural nonprofit institution Artpark & Company, programs and manages the summer outdoor cultural venue. Artpark & Company delivers 150-plus events attended by 150,000-plus visitors, on 150-plus acres of land over 110 days of summer. Ninety of these events are community and family programs delivered to more than 50,000 people at low or no cost. Artpark & Co. programming delivers $13 million in estimated annual economic impact on the community.

Talking Leaves is Buffalo's oldest independent bookstore, bringing together readers and writers, ideas and issues in the community since 1971, with a diverse and idiosyncratic selection of books for readers of all ages.

The WNY Book Arts Center (aka “Book Arts”) is a nonprofit visual arts organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of printmaking and the art and craft of the book. Book Arts' downtown Buffalo location features an artist workspace, residency and exhibition programs, youth and adult education programs, a community accessible print studio, and a retail artisan market. Onsite and within the community, in-person and virtually, Book Arts provides opportunities for artists, youths and community members to participate in a range of creative activities.

Hallwalls mission is to recognize and serve a vital community artistic presence that is global in its outlook, challenging in its ideas, pluralistic in its concerns, and diverse in its expression. Hallwalls' twofold mission is to serve artists by supporting the creation and presentation of new work in the visual, media, performing and literary arts, and to serve the public by making these works available to audiences. Hallwalls is dedicated in particular to work by artists, which challenges and extends the traditional boundaries of the various art forms, and which is critically engaged with current issues in the arts and – through the arts – in society. Finally, Hallwalls believes that the right of freedom of expression for artists, and for free access to their works by interested individuals, must be protected as a fundamental and necessary condition of our mission.

The tree workshop at Artpark is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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