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Wyman Street, Atlanta

Beth Lilly
Wyman Street, Atlanta
From the series Monster
Pigment print
17 x 22 inches
Courtesy of the artist
© 2010 Beth Lilly. All Rights Reserved

The impulse to imagine human elements in the natural world is perhaps a useful tool for establishing empathy, and Beth Lilly seeks to shift our perspective from seeing the trees as “it” to seeing them as “us.” Photographing them in winter in black and white, she calls our attention to their postures and gestures—equating tree trunks with torsos and limbs, and branches with arms and fingers, all straining toward light and freedom. Many of the trees have adopted extreme shapes, becoming more of a blight on the streetscape than the grace notes they were meant to be. The amputations made by utility-line workers in the name of safety and uninterrupted service are not artful, and it is difficult not to feel hurt for these unattractive trees. But instead of feeling sorry for them, Lilly wants us to think about how human beings affect the natural world and how the natural world adapts to these changes. “I actually enjoy and admire the way they’ve overcome the difficulties of their life,” Lilly says in her artist statement about the work. “These images aren’t calling for the end of this urban bonsai. They are a description of what exists and a way to bring your attention to it.”