First Person Artist: Joel Tauber

First Person Artist is a weekly column by painter Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on art and the creative process and showcases artists' work from around the world. This week's artist is Los Angeles-based Joel Tauber.

When the sight of plastic bags twirling in the wake of our cars is commonplace, when thick orange sunsets become ever more fantastical and people in Georgia are fined for watering their lawns, man's impact on nature becomes less and less deniable, even by the crazies. Yet, we forge ahead, not wanting to be inconvenienced by the truth (thanks, Al), nor denied access to all the amenities of the American Dream. And the ever growing sheaths of concrete and box stores continue to expand to afford us just this. According to the NY Times, urban sprawl consumes 9000 acres a day in this country.

In Joel Tauber's latest series, "My Lonely Tree," he falls in love with and cares for, a tree. Yet unlike the sad polar bear sitting on a diminishing icecap, his images are right in our backyard, something we might drive around and miss otherwise. She may be losing the war, god we hope not, but to see this series is to instantly share Tauber's rapture for Nature's triumph in one tiny battle at the Rose Bowl parking lot.


My Lonely Tree, 2005 Color Photograph. Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What was the moment that inspired this series? JT: I have fallen in love with a tree in the middle of a gigantic parking lot. I cannot really explain how this happened, but love is a hard thing to explain. The tree is not something that most people notice, except as a source of shade for their cars. Yet, somehow - on a beautiful summer day in June 2005 -- I was drawn to the beauty of this forsaken California Sycamore tree, stuck in the middle of Rose Bowl parking lot K. I was touched by how lonely it was, and I was outraged by the many indignities it suffered.


July 30, 2007: The Tree is Protected by a Boulder Barrier!, 2007.
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What did you do about it?

JT: I have taken it upon myself to try to rectify the many wrongs that this tree has suffered. Since August 2005, I have been watering the tree with large water bags. In October 2005, I built and installed tree guards in order to protect the tree from cars. I spent many months lobbying the City and the Rose Bowl to remove the asphalt beneath the canopy of the tree, so that the tree would get more of the water and oxygen that it desperately needs. In September 2006, the Rose Bowl removed 400 square feet of asphalt beneath the tree and replaced it with mulch. And, on July 30, 2007, the Rose Bowl placed a permanent boulder barrier around the tree. These boulders will protect the tree from cars and provide seating for people to contemplate the beauty of the tree.


February 16, 2007: The Tree Babies Have Arrived!!!, 2007.
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What are some of the ways you made this project larger than the saving of the one tree?

JT: I gathered many seeds from the tree, and I am thrilled that 200 tree babies are now growing happily with the help of the Theodore Payne Foundation. I am also working with LA>


The Tree Adorned with Earrings (central image of a triptych).
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter
Los Angeles Projects

KB: What message do you seek to impart to your viewers when they see your work?

JT: I want the work to raise questions about our relationships to our environment. Why don't we notice the trees stuck in our parking lots? Why don't we give them the care and respect that they deserve? What does it say about our culture and our future if we treat our cars better than we treat our trees?


Laying with the Tree (Self-Portrait of Artist).
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter
Los Angeles Projects

Joel Tauber received his MFA from Art Center College of Design, and he teaches video art at USC. His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions and solo exhibitions at a number of locations both locally and internationally. His current projects include "Sick-Amour", a series of films and public interventions at the Rose Bowl. As part of LA>artist"s website and will be featured in the following galleries and museums:

-November 30, 2007 - April 13, 2008: "Seven Attempts to Make a Ritual" in the exhibition "The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation" at the Spertus Museum, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. The show then travels to the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.

-December 12, 7:30 - 10:30 pm: "Sick-Amour" at the smart@house with LA>here), GOOD Magazine, and Million Trees. The smart@house is located at 1319 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice Beach, CA.

-January 24: Opening ceremony for the permanent tree baby installation in front of the USC School of Art, LA, CA.

-Opening in January: "Sick-Amour" in "Systems Theory" at the Torrance Art Museum 3320 Civic Center Drive Torrance, CA 90509.

-Spring 2008: Solo exhibition at the Adamski Gallery For Contemporary Art, Strausberger Platz 3, 10243 Berlin, Germany.