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The Tree of Life

November 19, 2013 - January 01, 2014


Tree of LifeFamilies across the tristate will have a brand new holiday tradition to enjoy, starting this week at the Cincinnati Art Museum. An exciting new interactive exhibit entitled The Tree of Life is a 16 foot 19 year old crabapple tree that has been transformed into a sculptural piece of art by local artist Matt Kotlarczyk. The exhibit is interactive, requiring visitor participation by placing handwritten wishes into glass vials that adorn the tree, to bring the tree to life.

 Once a dying tree in Matt Kotlarczyk’s front yard the crabapple tree was uprooted, sprayed with a white silicon film and stands from trunk to branch swathed in white rubber. The tree was then dis-assembled and then re-assembled in the entrance of the Cincinnati Wing, waiting to be adorned with jeweled colored paper inserted into specially crafted glass vials, more than 800 that will hang from each limb. Visitors will be encouraged to write their dreams, hopes, and intentions for the New Year on these pieces of paper to be hung on the tree throughout the exhibition.

On January 1, 2014 at 11 am when we open the doors to the Cincinnati Art Museum for the first time in the New Year, a brief ceremony will be held to burn the intentions and release them into the clouds. The reaming ashes will be used to fertilize a new crabapple tree to planted on the grounds of the Cincinnati Art Museum in the Spring.

This new holiday tradition is a compliment to the existing holiday traditions that Cincinnati families have come to love and enjoy, according to Director of Learning and Interpretation, Emily Holtrop, “This is our opportunity to connect with our community in a manner that embraces all cultures and religions, it celebrates the diversity of our community which is also represented in our overall collection, and it wraps up all of the goodwill from the holiday and sends it off in good fashion at the start of the New Year.”

The Cincinnati Art Museum staff decided that The Tree of Life which has been depicted in various art forms for thousands of years would a perfect symbol for community, culture, beauty, family, and tradition, all values we embrace during the holiday season. They also wanted the exhibit to be interactive, that art of participation makes the tree come alive with color and magic with every intention that is added.

The Cincinnati Art Museum put a call out for proposals in late summer and commissioned Matt Kotlarcyzk, who had the perfect concept, an actual tree, saved from destruction, brought back to life with new purpose as a work of art in the museum.   Kotlarczyk is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati, College of Design Architecture, Art & Planning (DAAP) and works as a sculptor, with many pieces in public and private collections, including the City of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Zoo and Proctor and Gamble. His most beloved work is The Muse of Clifton, at the corner of Clifton and Ludlow Avenue.

The story of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Tree of Life and the painstaking process by artist Matt Kotlarczyk to create it has been documented by Bright Light Visual Communications and the video story will run on a screen next to the installation throughout the exhibit