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Artist Spencer Finch Recreates A Redwood Forest in Brooklyn Park

There’s a forest in the middle of a bustling square in Downtown Brooklyn. Last fall, Brooklyn-based artist Spencer Finch worked with the NYC Public Art Fund to plant a 1:100 scale version of a plot of the protected Redwood National Park in California. While busy New Yorkers shuffle through the square on the way to work, they have a chance to peek into a reconstructed version of one of California’s most famous national parks.

The exhibit, Lost Man Creek, highlights the contrast and connection between cities and forests, and awareness (or lack thereof) of the environment in urban cities. “The project captured our imagination,” Associate Curator of the exhibition, Emma Enderby, recently told Garden Collage. “You’re taking an abstract idea of how do you understand or quantify the huge scale forest and make that available to a Brooklyn and New York audience.”

The work contains 4,000 Dawn Redwood trees that were recreated according to the same configuration of trees in Redwood National Park in California. It took about a year of planning the exhibit before installation could begin. Finch worked with Save the Redwoods League to find a 790-acre section of the forest to recreate. The team worked from topographical and canopy height maps to figure out how many trees they need for the installation, as well as a tree farm to grow these trees. They also consulted with soil and irrigation experts to determine how best to create an environment in which the miniature forest could thrive throughout the exhibition period. Over the course of two weeks, volunteers helped plant section by section, based on the maps and the grid. “It was a very specific process because each tree is in a spot that correlates to how the tree is out in the [related] section of Redwood Forest,” Enderby said.

Lost Man Creek isn’t only scaled by square foot; it’s also scaled vertically. The original trees are between 98 to 380 feet tall, which is taller than the closest high buildings looming behind the Metrotech Commons quarter. “When you think about scaling those up 1 foot in our installation, to 98ft, you think about the ages and the history that these trees have,” Enderby said. “I think it can have some amazing effects when people think about these forests, and about nature and the importance of protecting them and looking after them.”

In some sections of Lost Man Creek, there are smaller trees which signify those that have been cut down, bringing into question the problem of deforestation and time and scale required to preserve these trees. The deck leads people up to look over the small forest from above– a perspective that creates a striking contrast between the natural growth of the forest trees and the trees already planted in Metrotech Commons Square, which are arranged in a perfectly-straight line.

“When you put artwork in public space, you run the risk of it being invisible, or walked by, or people being too busy to engage with it,” Enderby said, “Our hope is that we at least grab their attention and they ask ‘What is this?’, ‘What has appeared here?’ and then try to understand more.”

Of course, a forest doesn’t blend seamlessly into Downtown Brooklyn. “A miniature forest is something that you would never expect to see in this very bustling, busy downtown Brooklyn square,” Enderby says. “By creating something that is out of place and somewhat strange– something that you wouldn’t usually come across– I think that we are able to spark conversation.”

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Lost Man Creek is located at the Metrotech Commons between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, and is accessible via the A, C, F, and R.

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