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Oh Christmas Tree, Dead Christmas Tree
Autumn Lencioni likes to photograph dead things.
Not all dead things, no.
She's specific. She's looking for Christmas trees.
The ones that don't get hauled away. The ones thrown down some alley, or on the side of the road, hacked in half and half again, or stuffed into a giant white garbage bag. The ones that turn up all year round — not just in January and February — brown and crunchy and totally discarded.
More than 50 pictures of such trees make up her “Dead Christmas Trees” exhibit, which opens tonight at Spectrum Art Galley and runs through Jan. 3. Some of them were made into large prints, but most were printed up as greeting cards and are available for a small donation to the gallery.
It may seem a but morbid this time of year, but Lencioni is not looking to ruin anybody's season. She does want to challenge contemporary culture by focusing on the juxtaposition between the spirit of giving and the voracious consumption we're become accustomed to.
“The season has become about gift giving and consumption,” she says.
These trees represent the worst of that. For a time, they served as the centerpiece of someone's house. Here, they're garbage, fire hazards. The trees are visible reminders that the stuff we have doesn't just go away because we have no use for it anymore.
“The life of that product continues to exist after we are through with it,” Lencioni says. By looking at how they are discarded, you can catch a glimpse at how people interacted with these trees.
Lencioni saw a dead tree out on her brother's property. It was summer, she remembers, about five years ago. That's how long the project has been percolating inside her head.
Once she started taking pictures, family and friends offered tips on where she could find more trees. It became a creative distraction from the serious work she was doing on her master's project. And yeah, Lencioni got some odd looks, when she was out scouting for trees. Someone asked if she worked for the county — because apparently county workers ride bicycles and snap pictures with a digital point-and-shoot.
She hasn't decided if she will continue with this series, or move on to something else. Lately she's been noticing Christmas trees in transit, which sounds like next year's exhibit just waiting to happen.