Over the past few years, trees in Vancouver, BC, and Auckland, New Zealand, have turned vibrant electric blue. Now the same thing is happening to trees in Seattle. It isn’t some strange virus or fungus; it’s part of an art project intended to make people more aware of the trees that surround them.
The Blue Trees is a social art action. Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos uses environmentally friendly paints to coat the trunks and limbs of urban trees all over the world, accompanied by signs that explain the project. His goal is to raise awareness of global deforestation. About 32 million acres of forests were converted to other uses or lost to natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2010 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Blue Trees project started in British Columbia in 2010. Dimopoulos colored trees in Port Moody, West Vancouver and Richmond for the Vancouver Biennale, a 2009-2011 art exhibition. After Vancouver, he colored trees in New Zealand, along the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. The colorant is made from azurite — a vibrant blue rock — and water, it is non-toxic, so it won’t hurt the trees. The blue color will eventually fade.
Trees are largely invisible in our daily lives, and it’s not until it’s too late that we realize how important they are to us both aesthetically and environmentally. “Blue is not a color we normally associate with trees, so he is transforming the trees,” said the artist’s wife and manager, Adele Dimopoulos. “This creates a pause for people to stop and actually notice the trees.” Over time, the vibrant blue will fade and be washed away by rain. Dimopoulos engages local volunteers to help paint the trees. The reaction thus far has been positive, says Dimopoulous. “Mostly people look at this and they love the blue. It’s actually quite intense and beautiful. We’re doing this to get people to say, ‘Wait, what’s happening?'”
The latest project, 56 painted trees in Westlake Park, Seattle, Washington and Burke-Gilman Trail, Kenmore, Washington was installed in April. After Seattle, Dimopoulous is bringing the project to Florida, Boston, and London. “All I’m doing is raising a flag,” he says. “I am for sustainable forestry, but there is sustainable and managed forestry and then there’s ecocide.”
Check out more images of the Seattle installation.