The Drawers - Mary Hrbacek  Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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The tree has become an important symbol as the diminishing returns of earth draw an ecological picture that shows our historical rape and pillage of the mighty forests as part and parcel of the present demise. The ozone is weakened but even sadder, the wonder at the grand old-growth tree where generations are recorded in the widening circumferences that make up the trunk is becoming a rare experience. It is little surprise that with the simpatico that humanity has with the tree, the tree could be depicted in such a way as to display characteristics that resemble humans.

Mary Hrbacek brings trees from the botanical into the human plane as she vests them with characterizations that veer on definitive personalities. She grants the gnarled barky elders or the young nubile budding trees a combination of respect and consideration. She identifies the origin; Brooklyn trees, Chinese trees, trees in Viareggio or Central Park, trees from Vermont. She titles each tree and in doing so furthers her interpretation of the familiar shapes. Family trees, growing from the central trunk and showing the connections of the limbs and the mutual support that the branches lend to the whole parallel the symbolic in Hrbacek's World Tree Series.

With a sure dense line and the added isolation of particular framing, the trunks and limbs begin to dance, waving their arms in the air and striding from their rooted existence into a new domain where fixedness is transcended. Without dwelling on unnecessary details of bark or lichen growth, Hrbacek picks the facets that will further advance this new illusion of freedom. That her studio, in Harlem, is stationary (rooted) within the concrete thicket of the famous city is significant and that the rendering is strong, hip, assertive and almost 'jive' is just the attitude needed to gain sufficient notice within the barrage of city slickness. Hrbacek's trees may have originated in Italy or China but they have been adapted to the Western world and a new brave American life under the graphic tutelage of Hrbacek. They are like the pastiche of New Yorkers, hanging out in Central Park or Williamsburg or bringing to the cultural plain the freshness of Vermont or the exotic heritage of the Orient and Europe. Their origins lending strength to their new adaptation, they have become a new breed of tree, a generation removed from their homeland existing in the art scene with a competitive presence.

Copyright 2006,  Headbones Gallery, The Drawers