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Near the dead piñon where birds gather in autumn

Subhankar Banerjee
Near the dead piñon where birds gather in autumn
From the series Where I Live I Hope to Know
Digital chromogenic print, face- and back-mounted to a petroleum product (Plexiglas)
48 x 36 inches inches
Courtesy of the artist
© Subhankar Banerjee

Along with the chollas in his high-desert neighborhood, Subhankar Banerjee encountered many piñon trees, a key species in the juniper-piñon woodland ecosystem that is widespread in the mountainous areas of the western United States. Despite their modest size and appearance, many are very old and part of old-growth forests, which store a large amount of carbon and provide a rich and varied ecosystem for plants and animals. But many of the piñon trees Banerjee encountered in New Mexico were dead or dying. From research, he found that the trees were being killed by an infestation of tiny bark beetles that thrive in drought conditions and have decimated piñon and other tree populations throughout the West.

Distressed by the sight of blighted trees and the threat to such an important desert species, Banerjee wrote an article that cites the infestation of bark beetles as a symptom of global warming. As the artist indicates in the title of this photograph, even the tree’s shell is put to good use by offering a protective habitat.