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This web site presents
the work of Esther Parada accompanied by texts taken from her writings.


South wall of the installation

Atrium, east side

Atrium, south side

Canopy: A Meditation on the
Demise of the American Elm, 1998

For over seventeen years I lived on a block in Oak Park, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) shaded by a seemingly idyllic elm tree canopy. For me and for many Americans, elm-shaded streets represented an ideal of community and tradition, threatened by the spread of Dutch Elm fungus, a disease which first appeared in the United States in the 1930s. In this exhibition I want to embody a contradiction: On the one hand, I recognize my attachment to that canopy ideal; and I share the community’s grief over the loss of elm trees. On the other hand, I want to challenge the notion of a canopy formed by single species tree plantings; and I question the whole concept of monoculture which it symbolizes.

Atrium window

In the sequence on the south wall the elm canopy is disrupted through the use of large-scale pixels which fragment visual continuity as the viewer approaches the image. It is further interrupted by strips (generated from still photographs) that depict the loss of a single magnificent elm which protected the south side of our home. Other strips (primarily generated from video stills) represent change: shifting configurations of family and personal relationships in my life over the last fifteen years.

The stump photographs on the west wall (documenting what remained of our elm) repeat and extend this sequence of loss and change.

The panels on the north wall express my intense nostalgia for/obsession with traditions of family and community history. They are generated from twenty-four seconds of home movie footage (taken in 1948 by my uncle) at a family gathering in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These fragments of family portraiture, like the leaf fragments on the east wall, are intended to capture both the power and fleeting fragility of these histories and connections.

—From the Artist Statement

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