Uproot is a series of charcoal drawings of uprooted ponderosa pines, based on trees in Flagstaff’s Coconino National Forest that were downed in a violent windstorm. Exposing their enormous root system, which is wide spreading with a deep taproot, it can be observed how these trees are typically adaptable to windy, dry conditions and high elevation. These images metaphorically reflect the turbulence of our times, which are shrouded in a global health emergency, the climate crisis, national political upheaval, and civil unrest. Ponderosa pines are naturally resilient to harsh conditions; what circumstances can weaken even the strongest stature?

UPROOT: Populus fremonti

Uproot: Populus fremontii depicts an uprooted Western Cottonwood tree along Arizona’s Verde River. Cottonwoods have shallow, wide spreading root systems with a taproot extending six feet down, which stabilizes the characteristically fast-growing, hundred-foot-tall deciduous trees. Cottonwoods thrive in floodplains and silt loams along rivers and streams, and as waters rise and recede the roots can breathe. Groves of cottonwood trees are indicators of water, and in riparian environments the stands are important for erosion control and provide shaded habitat for animal shelter. Metaphorically, the image of the uprooted cottonwood reflects the impact of human threats to perennial rivers in the Southwest. The fragmented drawing speaks to the brittleness of resiliency in the face of accelerating climate change. As a divination of water, do these toppled trees warn us about our future if sources are depleted? What future would we face if the rivers run dry?