If you're wondering how our food will be grown eons from now, a good place to start your research might be -- not so surprisingly -- in the contemporary art world.
One need only visit the website of one Sam Van Aken, an American artist who's made it his mission to combine the aesthetic of sculpture with the agricultural wonder of planting trees. The literal fruits of his labor turn images of hybridization and metamorphosis, familiar themes in art, on their heads.
His project is called "Tree of 40 Fruit," an ongoing series in which Van Aken creates Frankenstein plants that have the capability of producing 40 different types of stone fruit. To do so, he grafts together different varieties of fruit-bearing trees, a method that might seem at home in the laboratory of a mad scientist.
At first, Van Aken combines a few types onto the root structure of a single tree, allowing his "working tree" to mature to at least two years old. Then he proceeds to add more varieties to the limbs in a sequence called "chip grafting." Van Aken inserts a budding branch into an incision in the working tree -- with a piece of tape, no less -- and allows the limb to function as a normal appendage of the plant. The process takes about 5 years per tree, and has yielded 16 "Trees of 40 Fruit" thus far.
Tree 31 – 21C Museum-Hotel Bentonville, Arkansas
"I was able to see the grafting process while growing up on a farm and have always been fascinated by how one living thing cut could be cut inserted into another living thing and continue to grow," Van Aken explained to HuffPost. "As this fascination evolved I came to see grafting used as a metaphor for sexuality such as in Ovid's Metamorphosis and the modern man such as Frankenstein. Like the forms in these books I wanted the tree to be the beginning of a narrative. A form that when seen causes one to create narrative."
Tree 69 – Louisville, Kentucky
From peaches, plums and cherries to apricots, nectarines and almonds, Van Aken's blossoming artworks can be seen in cities across the Untied States, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico; Short Hills, New Jersey; Louisville, Kentucky and Pound Ridge, New York. While the trees appear like any other tree for much of the year, their true beauty bursts forth in the spring, when hues of pink and purple take over. Once the summer months roll around, the 40 fruits arrive.
Take a look at some of the photos of Van Aken's trees here and let us know your thoughts on his art-meets-science endeavor in the comments. Head over to the artist's website for more of his work. As he mentioned in our exchange, his fascination with leaves and trunks runs deep:"I could probably go on for days about the trees."
Tree 35 – Short Hills, New Jersey
Tree 71 – Pound Ridge, New York