Art Grows from Trees: Alan Sonfist and Richard Rosenblum at deCordova

Alan Sonfist’s The Endangered Species of New England and Richard Rosenblum’s Venusvine

Sonfist’s The Endangered Species of New England has been part of the Sculpture Park since 2013. Rosenblum’s Venusvine, created 1990, has been there since 1996. Both artworks reflect their artists’ deeply rooted work with trees. Both are metal renderings of natural forms. Both artworks have decisive locations in the park. They’ve held their ground while other artworks have moved around, left or entered in recent years.

Like all art in the park, they reflect changes in weather, seasons and daylight, as well as viewpoints. They are landmarks with background stories; they generate new stories too. Quotes from the Trustees website offer their basic stories. The links ( red type) will lead to more about their artists. My photos here could suggest what might intrigue you on a visit, virtually or in person.

“Cast from the roots of dead trees, Venusvine fluctuates between recognizable form and raw, tangled energy. Rosenblum transformed heavy bronze into a fluid, active figure. ….. Venusvine recalls a spirit bursting out of the earth, almost as if a group of sentient roots was twisted together into a human form. Embodying Rosenblum’s interest in the mysticism of nature, the sculpture exudes an animated aura that recalls cult deities.” ( quote from Trustees description of artwork: Venusvine)

Born in New Orleans in 1940, Rosenblum briefly attended three art schools: California School of Fine Arts, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Cranbrook Academy of Art. Rosenblum had solo exhibitions across the United States, including Allan Stone Gallery, New York; Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio. A major exhibition of his Chinese scholars’ rocks collection traveled to prestigious venues across the United States and Europe. Starting in the l990s, Rosenblum continued to explore themes of nature and heightened drama using digital photomontage. His studio was located in Newton Centre, MA, where he lived and worked until his death in February 2000.” ( quote from Trustees description of artwork: Venusvine)

“In line with past preservationist gestures, Endangered Species of New England is an outdoor installation created specifically for the deCordova Sculpture Park. It began, in 2011, with the installation of four larger-than-life aluminum leaves that serve as signposts for a very real threat in our region—the potential extinction of several of New England’s most beloved native trees: the American Beech, the American Chestnut, the Burr Oak and the Sugar Maple. These sculptural leaves are totems of both warning and reverence for the trees that are silently disappearing around us.“( quote from Trustees description of artwork: The Endangered Species of New England)

Sonfist’s leaves are more than commemorative objects. They honor their species with time capsules buried beneath each sculpture. The individual capsules contain the seeds for the tree symbolized directly above, thus protecting the legacy and future growth of the indigenous trees of New England and all living creatures who depend upon them for survival.”(quote from Trustees description of artwork: The Endangered Species of New England)

Beginning with his first major commissioned work, “Time Landscapes” in Greenwich Village, NYC, Sonfist received critical acclaim for his innovative use of urban spaces to design havens of nature. His early work in the 1960s and 1970s helped pioneer the burgeoning movement of site-specific sculpture. Today, he continues to promote sustainable energy and strives to raise awareness for global climate change with his international projects.” ( quote from Alan Sonfist website, biography ) Alan Sonfist Studio website includes narrated slide shows of several landscape projects and sculpture installations.

Art of the Natural World, Resonances of Wild Nature in Chinese Sculptural Art by Richard Rosenblum, with Valerie C. Doran, Noted publication, 2001


  1. Sharon McBride · · Reply

    Hi Deb — I enjoyed your post — especially seeing sculptures from different points of view. I love Venusvine — the way its appearance shifts depending on how one looks at it. Thanks!


  2. Love the root sculpture – thanks for sharing!


  3. Sandra Krem · · Reply

    I Really enjoyed the pictures, and felt a bit like I was there. The leaves are something I always enjoy, as well trees. Thank you for sharing

    Sandy Levy Krem


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