Bryan Nash Gill is a multimedia artist from rural Connecticut who has recently enjoyed a popular traveling show of woodcut prints made from old growth tree sections. I stumbled upon his show Woodcut at the Chicago Botanic Garden this winter, when I’d take my girls to huddle in the conservatory, where amid orchid-filled air, we were allowed a brief reprieve from Chicago’s worst months. En route to the greenhouses one day, I passed a corridor displaying Bryan Nash Gill’s show of massive prints made from trees in a wonderful limited palette of reds, inky black, cobalt blue, and green. I was blown away. His process involves sawing fallen trees, then charring them with a torch to bring out the rings sections (accentuating their topography), then making woodcut prints. He is the epitome of everyone’s fantasy of the manly outdoor artist lumberjack. The strange thing is, the tree itself does most of the storytelling for the artist. There is a tale to be told in each print. From the rings can be read the history of the tree’s life: if it had been struck my lightening, endured a few drought years, had been damaged in a fire, etc. I love the environment like the next girl, but I am so bored to tears with being hit over the head with Green Living mandates and preachy hippies. Bryan Nash Gill employs the tree itself as a storyteller: the most elegant environmentalism I have seen. I also must commend him on his marvelous use of color and large format prints. His prints are like a tree’s memoir, encapsulated in one perfect lifesize print — without words.
All photographs by Olivia Joffrey of artwork by Brian Nash Gill.