EMERITUS

JOHN GRADE

OSU Memorial Union Quad

Presented by
the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts,
the College of Forestry, the College of Liberal Arts,
and
the Office of the Provost with support from:
the Patricia Valian Reser Arts and Education Complex
Endowments, the Evans Curatorial and Collections Fund,
and the Jim and Peggy Wiggett Arts & Communication Fund.

Emeritus

John Grade’s monumental sculpture Emeritus is inspired by the form of an absent tree. Suspended in the middle of Oregon State University’s Giant Sequoias, Emeritus invites viewers to peer vertically into the hollow, ghostly space of an imagined fourth trunk, formed of tens of thousands of cast and carved pieces that make reference to the species’ cones, needles, and branches. Additionally, superficially burnt areas of Emeritus invoke the trees’ complex relationship to wildfire.

Like many of Grade’s works — which are commonly transformed by the action of rain, wind, insects, weather, and other forces — the intent of Emeritus is to live parallel to and be transformed by our regional botanical ecosystem. The work is ideally seen both by day and at night, when it is softly illuminated.

Visitors are welcome to visit Emeritus 24 hours a day. In respecting OSU’s 100-year-old Sequoia grove, we ask that you refrain from climbing the trees in this area or leaving behind any unnatural materials.

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John Grade

John Grade (American, born 1970 in Minneapolis, MN) lives and works in Seattle, WA.

Inspired by changing geological and biological forms and systems in the natural world, John works with his studio team to sculpt immersive large-scale, site-specific installations. Kinetics, impermanence and chance are often central to the work.

Recent projects draw inspiration from mountains in Nevada’s Great Basin, highland forests in Guatemala and changing landforms above the Arctic Circle. Beginning a series investigating natural disasters, upcoming large-scale sculptures will relate directly to forest fires, windstorms and earthquakes.

John is the recipient of the 2010 Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (NY), a Tiffany Foundation Award (NY), three Andy Warhol Foundation Grant Awards (NY), two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants (NY), the 2011 Arlene Schnitzer Prize from the Portland Art Museum (OR), and the 2013 Arts Innovator Award from Artist Trust (WA).

College of Agricultural Sciences Research Associate Yung- Hsiang (Sky) Lan climbing a Giant Sequoia

Tree Protection 

The sculpture is suspended from cables attached to straps cushioned by wood spacers. Six climbers installed the sculpture using specialized arborist techniques involving no spurs, fasteners, or any other elements that could damage the Sequoias. The climbers included John Grade, College of Agricultural Sciences Research Associate Yung- Hsiang (Sky) Lan, and Artist-in-Residence at OSU’s H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Leah Wilson.

College of Forestry Research

College of Forestry researchers, with the support of the artist, are collecting data about the ecological conditions of the sculpture while it is installed in the sequoia grove for 14 months. Data collection efforts include:

  • Bioacoustic monitoring of the sequoia grove for avian communities. This technique relies on artificial intelligence to auto-ID bird sounds recorded throughout the tree canopy. The data help researchers understand how species are changing in response to climate and habitat change. Audio recorders capture bird species (and other species such as bats) that are hard to see but vocalize often.
  • Using automated dendrometers to track tiny changes in trunk diameter that take place throughout the day and across seasons. This allows researchers to better understand a tree’s growth patterns and water status, including loss and absorption of water from the soil and the air in response to weather variations.
  • Creating an inventory of canopy biodiversity by collecting eDNA data from rainwater that percolates through the tree canopy and touches plant, animal, and fungal species on its way to the forest floor. Using this novel method, researchers can detect well-known and new species.

Linnia Hawkins, a post-doctoral scholar in the department of forest ecosystems and society installing a dendrometer in the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Christopher Still.

Giant Sequoias

Estimated at over 2,200 years old, a Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in California’s Sequoia National Park represents the largest known single-stemmed tree in the world. At a little over 100 years old, the three Giant Sequoias in OSU’s Memorial Union quad are much younger. Although today the species only occurs naturally in the Sierra Nevadas, fossil records indicate that the subfamily (Sequoioideae) once occupied vast regions. Giant Sequoias are adapted to fire by their thick, insulating bark and serotinous cones, which open to propagate the species when their resins melt. Even so, the species is vulnerable to the increased intensity and scale of wildfires in the modern era, and the Giant Sequoia is designated as a threatened species.

Events

October 28, 2022

John Grade “Artist’s Opening, Discussion, and Reception” (SEC PLAZA).

This event will be choreographed to offer audience members a chance to provide reactions to the sculpture and to feature dialogue between the artist, commentators on contemporary art, and OSU forestry faculty/experts. The dimensionality of the sculpture will be explored in terms of the issues in art, environment, and forest ecology that it activates.

 

October 2022-December 2023

Sculpture installed at OSU

We are working on activations over the course the 14 months, including using research techniques to create a “bio-map” of avian, human, and microbial “visitors” to the sculpture in the grove, periodic music events, and docent-led tours of the sculpture and other forest-based art on campus.

 

November 2023

Farewell Event

At this event, we bid farewell to the sculpture prior to the components being reconfigured for reinstallation in Alaska. We’ll reveal the bio-map record of the past 14 months and include other material related to the impact of the sculpture on campus.

Community Participation

"The sculpture is inspired by trees. It's inspired by the interface between science and art but there's also a really important social component, and I've been really frankly amazed at the level of engagement in the community here at OSU. It's really something I've never experienced to this degree—we've had hundreds of people participate in the project." -John Grade

202 volunteers contributed 436 volunteer hours to assist in assembling  Emeritus over 6 days in October 2022.

Response by Leah Wilson

“In October 2022 I was invited to help install John Grade’s sculpture Emeritus in Oregon State University’s Sequoia Grove in the Memorial Union Quad. The invitation came because of my experience climbing the Discovery Tree for Listening to the Forest which is included in OSU’s permanent collection. The new Patricia Reser Center for the Creative Arts furthers the university’s commitment to integrating the arts with the science for which OSU is known, especially forest science. John Grade’s sculpture celebrates this commitment. I was asked to give a response to Grade’s work and to connect it with Listening to the Forest.” – Leah Wilson

Read Leah’s full response here