The forest vibrates full of sounds, colors and smells, composed of its rich fauna and flora. In this intriguing habitat each organism and structure, however small they may be, plays a crucial role in keeping the forest alive. When we enter the forest we come across a particular species, Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). This robust tree, native to the forests of North America, is surrounded by other inhabitants who use its resources to survive. Leaves are food for deer, while its fruit supports populations of insects, birds and mammals. The trunk, in addition to housing for fauna, is also used in the production of furniture that adorns the homes of human beings. Considered a pioneer species, Black Cherry is responsible for preparing the forest soil to receive new beings that arrive here in search of home. However, now suffering from its loss of biodiversity, the forest is sick. Amid the solid trunks of the Black Cherries, there remains only deafening silence broken only by the sound of the wind. Without the deer, birds and other beings that surround it, the forest languishes. The roots of the trees retract and the leaves dry and fall. The forest once colorful and vibrant, now fades from green.


“When trees grow together, nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.”

—Peter Wohlleben


Black Cherry is an installation inspired by forest biodiversity, and inside the gallery represents a feeling of being inside this natural habitat. The audience is invited to walk through a forest formed by the trunk of a sectioned Black Cherry tree. Upon closer look, the forest has been victimized by loss of biodiversity and far from green. Each year, thousands of species migrate to new territories in search of better conditions that will allow them to survive. In the human species, immigration has the same objective but it is often hampered by the ironic barriers created by human beings themselves. These can be physical barriers between territories and made with metal, iron and cement, or they can be invisible and built by our pre-judgments and concepts. Regardless of its shape, the barrier creates an obstacle which prevents us from moving forward. Black Cherry is created from data extracted from United States censuses to create a parallel between the forest and the immigration process, showing that diversity is an important engine to keep ‘place’ alive, be it a country, a city, or a neighborhood. Black Cherry is a key-species and in this work represents the 50 American states, preparing their soils and providing resources for those who come in search of a new home. The metal rods which emerge from the trunks stand for those who were born in this forest (native-born population) and who support those who want to get here. The IV bags and their liquid are those who reach the forest (immigrant population), penetrating and irrigating the trunks and causing the forest to sprout. Black Cherry emphasizes in a metaphorical and poetic way, the importance of living in the midst of diversity; that a forest survives because of each individual and structure inside it and that only together, can keep it alive.


As it is a work based on data, each element of this installation has a numerical meaning. The size of each Black Cherry trunk is related to the size of the territory of each of the states in the United States. The height of each rod is related to the number of people born in each state (data extracted in November of 2020 from the United States Census Bureau database) and the amount of liquid in each IV bag represents the number of immigrants residing in each the states (data extracted in November of 2020 from the United States Census Bureau database for the legal population and the Center for Migration Studies for the unauthorized population).


* District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were not included due to lack of available data.

** In this work the immigrant population was considered the number of legal immigrants + the number of people who are part of the unauthorized population living in the United States.


Acknowledgment: this installation was only possible thanks to the help of incredible people and places, named here in alphabetical order: Buffalo Arts Studio; Chris Siano; Department of Art at the University at Buffalo; Domenic Licata; Dorothy Shaw and her beautiful forest; Jeffery Sherven; John Opera; John Santomieri; Matt Kenyon; Marguerite Kellam; Paul Vanouse; Pedro Cruz; Reinhard Reitzenstein; Shirley Tokash Verrico.  


Black Cherry. Buffalo Arts Studio, Buffalo, USA · 2021

EXISTENCE  |  2018

I created an inert environment based on my own senses, through a set of fragments that shape parts of my body. In each of these fragments bacteria from the corresponding body part are grown. This aggregates the living dimension of the author’s existence to each fragment of the composition. In this atmosphere of perceptions, especially visual and olfactory, it becomes possible to cross the barrier of existence, allowing the creator, even if absent, to continue to exist in his work. The reflection in the mirror invites to question about who we are and how far existence can go.


Palimpsesto. Museu Municipal de Penafiel, Penafiel, Portugal · 2020

Raízes. Faculdade de Belas-Artes da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal · 2019

Raízes. Biblioteca Municipal José Saramago, Odemira, Portugal · 2018

Montras. Cultivamos Cultura, São Luís, Portugal · 2018


Immigrants are central to the identity of the United States, the population of which has grown in number and diversity as a function of new arrivals from around the globe. This work is a visualization project leveraging arboreal visual metaphors to explore the contribution of immigrants to the country’s population. Immigrants and native-born persons are represented and differentiated as cells in trees, with layered annual rings capturing patterns of population growth. These rings register, in their shape and color, certain environmental conditions. In order to mimic the natural process by which growth rings are formed (the science of which is called dendrochronology), this project devises a computational system that generates tree rings as if cells were data-units.

Collaborative work with Pedro M. Cruz, John Wihbey, and Avni Ghael (Northeastern University).


Comunidades Visibles: The Materiality of Migration. ​Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA · 2021

Seeing Numbers. ​Brickbottom Artists Association, Somerville, USA · 2020

Who We Are. Museum of the City of New York, New York, USA · 2019

III Trans-disciplinary & Trans-national Festival of Art & Science. University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada · 2019

II Trans-disciplinary & Trans-national Festival of Art & Science. School of Visual Arts, New York, USA · 2018

Naturalizing Immigration. Northeastern Center for the Arts, Boston, USA · 2018

Mapping Worlds. Spaceus, Cambridge, USA · 2018

IEEE VIS 2018 Arts Program. Berlin, Germany · 2018

Presente Futuro. Design Para a Mudança. Museu do Design e da Moda, Lisbon, Portugal · 2018



A new way of seeing 200 years of American immigration. Citylab · 2018

This stunning visualization proves America is a nation of immigrants. Fast Company · 2018

200 years of U.S. immigration looks like the rings of a tree. National Geographic · 2018

Process of simulating tree rings for immigration in the U.S. VISAP · 2018



Winner gold: Most Beautiful Visualization. The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards · 2018

Winner gold: People, Language & Identity. The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards · 2018

SHIKEBANA  |  2019

From the Japanese shi: death; and ikebana: giving life to flowers.


The flower, in its ephemeral life, is always waiting for a pollinator, waiting for the rain. Finally, one day, someone approaches, filling the flower with hope. Like a voracious predator, we tear the flower from the ground. Part of a beautiful arrangement at the center of the table, colorful and aromatic, but less alive, ironically, the flower continues to wait.

Everything is ephemeral.

Everything will die.

Everything will be forgotten.


Chaotic Good. ​UB Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA · 2020


Times of Uncertainty: Felipe Shibuya on Chaotic Good. Boston Art Review · 2020

The Chaotic and Good Two Thousand and Twenty. Cornelia · 2020

SHIkebana. How can we practice radical hospitality? · 2019

©2021 by Felipe Shibuya

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