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.


2021 · Black Cherry

           Buffalo Arts Studio, Buffalo, USA