Sam Van Aken is a sculptor and a teacher, but also a visionary, whose dream of creating a new type of tree that produces 40 different kinds of fruit and has swept the world.
Art and technology are the two sides of the same coin. Technological innovations preceded the major changes in the arts and allowed artists to find new ways of expression.
New York-based professor Van Aken took this concept even further and used a rather common technique of grafting and turned it into something marvelous.
The tree of 40 kinds of fruit is an alive sculpture that changes throughout the year.
Its colors are breathtaking, as each fruit blossom at a different time. What appears to be just another tree during the winter, turns into an explosion of colors during the spring and summer. Syracuse University professor grew up on a farm and had plenty of botanical knowledge before pursuing a career in the arts.
In 2008 he found out that an orchard at New York State Agricultural Experiment Station is being shut down due to financial difficulties. Sam saw an opportunity to preserve this orchard that contained antique varieties of stone fruit. Some of them were more than 200 years old and would become extinct if no one took care of them.
In order to save these valuable trees, he bought the property. This was the starting point of a project that occupied his mind for the next eight years. He was now a proud owner of more than 250 different sorts of stone fruit, but this amount of trees required some sort of organization.
A famous artist once said that: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”.
Professor Van Aken has developed a timeline of the periods in which each tree in his newly acquired orchard blossomed and begun combing a few of them in order to see what results he would get. That is how he got the inspiration to start a unique project that is both beautiful and useful.
His first grafting experiments with working trees proved successful, and that is when he got an idea that through a slow process, he can create a tree that produces more than just one fruit. Every two years he added another sort to a branch of a tree using the technique called chip grafting.
The process of chip or bud grafting is not a complicated one. Its main idea is to take a sliver of fruit tree that has a bud and then tape it to a branch of another tree, the tree you want to produce more than just one type of fruit.
The tape helps create a greenhouse effect and as a result, the branch heals during the winter and becomes an integral part of the tree in the spring. Plums, nectarines, cherries, peaches, almonds, and apricots are just a few different kinds of stone fruit Sam used.
It took more than five years to complete the first tree of 40 kinds of fruit, and since 2008 this remarkable artist was able to produce 16 trees that provided 40 different sorts of stone fruits.
He makes sketches and plans carefully each tree, which is why these creations resemble sculptures.
Van Aken said in an interview:
I am an artist. So the whole project really began with this idea of creating a tree that would blossom in these different colors and would bear these multitudes of fruit.
So far the tree of 40 kinds of fruit has been planted in private art collections and museums around the US. The next step is to plant these amazing trees in public spaces and surprise people with its variety of colors and different fruits.
This idea also solves a problem that generations of fruit growers faced. Instead of having too much of one sort of fruit you get just the right amount of 40 different kinds of a drupe.
These natural sculptures attracted the attention of the scientific community. Sam Van Aken spoke about his project at Ted talks and National Geographic made a short reportage about him. You can see these videos here and here.
If you like more work of this New York-based artist make sure to visit his website samvanaken.com and if you would like you to find out more about his tree of 40 fruit project visit the official online presentation at the following link http://www.treeof40fruit.com/
By Zeljko D.
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