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Please note that the gallery will be closed until 26 May while we hang our new exhibition. The gallery will be closed for the entire month of July.


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From 26 May until 25 September 2018, Live Burls by Kirk Crippens & Gretchen LeMaistre will be exhibited at Schilt Gallery.


In 2013, an alarming number of redwood trees in America’s national and state parks were shorn of their knobby protrusions, called burls. The trees were disfigured by thieves aiming to sell distinctive burl wood to luxury furniture retailers. Kirk Crippens and Gretchen LeMaistre read about these trees in the news and were motivated to go and see them. Rangers from the Redwood National and State Parks assisted the two artists in accessing and photographing each site. Between 2013 and 2016, they made many visits to the redwood forests of Humboldt County, California.

On their first trip to the region, they passed a tourist attraction called Trees of Mystery. The entrance featured a fifty-foot effigy of Paul Bunyan, lumberjack of American folklore, and a large souvenir store with a neon sign that read “Live Burls.” At first they laughed at the spectacle, but the sign hung in the back of their minds as they began to explore the lure and the lore of the giant redwoods.

While redwood trees are sensational for their size, their burls are unique for less obvious reasons. Redwood burls contain stem cells that enable the trees to clone themselves. In a sense, a redwood tree may never truly die because the burls’ genetic codes maintain cycles of reproduction dating back nearly two hundred million years, to when the species began. Only one percent of redwood seeds become trees; burls generate the majority of trees. Redwoods and their cousin sequoias sometimes exist for as long as three thousand years. For these reasons, they were given the species name sempervirens, or “ever-living.” Steinbeck once referred to them as “ambassadors of another time.”

 Yet even the protected trees are subject to threat. Shorn trees are more vulnerable to disease, and their ability to reproduce is uncertain. Decades may pass before the full extent of poaching damage can be assessed. 


The horrifying way people can crush valuable natural and cultural history for money is masterfully shown by Kirk Crippens and Gretchen LeMaistre. The way they meticulously photograph these dying giants sends shivers down my spine. The beauty of their images and the superb silver gelatin prints they produce make it even harder. But it is exactly this combination of pure photographic craftsmanship with a subject of grave importance that gave me no choice but to immediately embrace the work. For me, this is exactly what photography should be about. 

– Maarten Schilt, as published in the 2018 FotoFest Biennial Catalogue