Ken Dalgarno

The Crooked Trees of Alticane
May 10 - June 5, 2010

  2010 Ken Dalgarno

Artist's Statement

"From the earliest times forests have been a place where those who seek knowledge and wisdom venture. This idea has become embedded into our collective psyche through religion, myths, and stories. Whether it be “The Tree of Enlightenment” from Buddhism, or when Jesus of Nazareth ventured into the wilderness to confront good and evil. In Norse mythology, axis mundi or the center of the world was Yggdrasil or the “World Tree”. In literature, Henry David Thoreau decided material wealth does nothing to augment happiness and withdrew to Walden - a cabin in the forest - to experience the divine through nature. This idea of nature imparting wisdom to those who choose to see was never more succinctly stated when the Cherokee Indian, Chief Sequoia said, “To be one with the trees is to know Life within your own spirit.”

The “Crooked Trees of Alticane” are nothing less than a remarkable botanical phenomenon. To call them crooked is an understatement. They are a mutant clone of trembling aspen exhibiting a weeping architecture where the trunks and branches twist and contort at incredible angles. At times, a branch will actually loop 360 degrees like a corkscrew. Other times, an entire tree will grow horizontally, intertwine and balance on an adjacent tree in a bizarre symbiotic mass. Trembling aspen already possess a peculiar whispering trait since their leaves will spin and flutter with the slightest breeze moving through their canopy. This rustling sound can be unsettling especially when everything around is seemingly still. To add to the allure, in an adjacent grove, not more than 20 meters away, the trembling aspen grow perfectly straight and tall.

The spirit of the Crooked Trees is palpable. There are so many rhythms flowing in this small tract of land located near Hafford, Saskatchewan. And yet, amazingly this incredible place has gone virtually unknown. I’m reminded of Northrop Frye’s book The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Frye writes, “The countries men live in feed their minds as much as their bodies.” “The land (Canada) is still not imaginatively absorbed, and the incubus moves on to haunt artists.” The Crooked Trees of Alticane need to absorbed. We need to hear their whisper and know Life within our own spirit. These trees are gladiators in a fracturing landscape bewitching us with a sense of mystery and the sublime. They are strange things, surfacing, moving targets, wilderness tips, negotiating with the dead, surviving in God’s garden.

Frye, Northrop The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination House of Anansi Toronto, 1971 p.199