I was at the United Arts Grant Application meeting where I first heard of Cole Nesmith's "Tree of Light." The sketch I saw at that meeting left me thinking it was a small sculptural piece. He joked that he ended up spending way more than the $1,000 grant. I went to Cole's place on Portland Avenue to see the work in progress. I couldn't see house numbers but I knew I was getting close when I heard a power saw. Cole was cutting planks off of wooden skits while Josh Owen was holding the wooden palette steady. A large aluminum structure filled the yard. Struts rose up at angles from a metal plate and then branched organically. Electrical boxes were welded at the ends of limbs and at junctions. The aluminum glistened in the sunlight. A large cylindrical beam acted as the trunk. It would be bolted to the ground and the upper limbs would be bolted to the top of it. For now it was lying on the ground. I started sketching. It was a chilly morning. Cole confided that his roommate was a bit of a pyromaniac who collected abandoned Christmas trees from all over town to burn, but that is another story.
Apparently the day before, Cole and Josh had been prying boards off of palettes using crow bars. It was back breaking, exhausting work. "The saw improved our productivity by 500%." Cole said. The job for the day was to start screwing wooden planks over the aluminum frame. Cole and Jimmy rejoiced when one whole limb was covered. They had tons of work to do. This was no easy process. The aluminum is light, but when all the wood is screwed onto it, it will become a very top heavy tree.
Chris Clatterbuck showed up with a box full of electrical supplies. It was his job to figure out the inner electrical workings of the art piece. He knew of me because of the sketches I did of the Singing Christmas Trees at First Baptist Church where he is an audio visual technician. He disappeared up onto the porch while the tree took form in the yard. A huge Live Oak tree spread its branches over the yard and house. I was impressed by the electrical relays Chris was working on. There were circuit boards and inner workings I couldn't begin to grasp. Cole showed me the strings of diodes that would be inside mason jars hanging from the tree. When a pedestrian pulled a chord, the diodes would light up, looking like fire flies.
February 2th the Tree of Light will he unveiled in downtown Orlando. It tree will be at the Seaside Plaza at the corner of Orange and Church St from Feb 2-Feb 29. The launch party is at 8pm-10pm on Feb 2 and is open to the public! I'll be there to sketch. I have to see how it all comes together.