Tree Limns: Light the Dark

Tree Limns is a public art project threading LED tubes through the trees of a darkened traffic island at the intersection of 4th St and College Ave in Santa Rosa, CA.  The lights fill the interstitial space between tree branches and rushing traffic, introducing color and inviting moments of calm in the midst of the hectic urban landscape.  Project by Spolia Design/Build. A Pop-Up Creativity Grant from Creative Sonoma.  Endorsed by the Art In Public Spaces Committee of the City of Santa Rosa.

Liminal spaces are spatial and psychological transition zones - thresholds between states of mind and phases of matter. They are ambiguous and disorienting, like the process of waking, and thrilling, like diving into water. Liminal phases are the intangible and indeterminate times of life when we change, learn, and grow.

Spaces and landscapes change, and urban landscapes are continually evolving. Thresholds - aka. points of entry and portals between spaces - act as tangible transition moments, and street intersections are physical embodiments of those transitions. The intersection of Fourth Street and College Avenue is a number of portals: from the East side of Santa Rosa to the Downtown Core; from residential neighborhoods to commercial zones; a link between surface streets and high-traffic volume connector roads.

The off-kilter intersection of the east-west College Avenue artery and the south/southwest-north/northeast curve of Fourth Street also has a shard of a traffic island that is marooned between many careening lanes of traffic. In between these lanes, there are stands of mature trees (Redwood, Holly-leafed Cherry, Crepe Myrtle, and a lone Pistache) that were planted in carefully spaced groups of three. Whether planned as a park and then carved and whittled away by expanding road rights-of-way, or planted as vegetative touchstones amidst bustling cars and trucks, the island is wholly contained within the traffic. The trees have grown into gnarled specimen, with alternately upright stately trunks, sinuous branches, and full canopies.

At night, the island is a void - and Tree Limns brings light and shifting color to the dark, illuminating on a scaffold of branches a liminal, transitional urban space: natural/built, car-centric/pedestrian-friendly, asphalt/soil, downtown/residential. The light calls attention to a forgotten space, and invite a moment of pause and contemplation.