Wolfgang Buttress: Blossom

Wolfgang Buttress: Blossom

Opening November 2020
Second Floor, North Building

This project uses sculpture, light, and sound to poetically reveal the life and death cycle of trees. For Blossom, the artist Wolfgang Buttress, based in Nottingham, England, documents the fading life of a 200-year-old Bramley apple tree (the mother of all Bramley apple trees), and the flourishing life of this tree’s progeny.

Working with scientist Dr. Martin Bencsik, Buttress attached accelerometers to the trunk and roots of the original Bramley apple tree, which is under the care of Nottingham Trent University in Southwell, England. These sensitive instruments detect the vibrations of this dying tree and send this live information to the glass sculpture on view at the Speed Art Museum. The artist also will attach accelerometers to a graft taken from the original Bramley tree which will be planted next to the original dying tree. Information from this new tree’s vibrations will be sent in real time to the Speed in Spring 2021 when the tree is in blossom.

On view in the gallery is a three-dimensional scan of the original Bramley apple tree, laser etched in cast glass. The light emanating from this sculpture and the sounds heard in the gallery are driven by the vibrations sent to the sculpture from the original tree and its young offspring. In the near future, the mother tree will die. Its vibrational energy will never completely cease, however, due to the energy released by the decaying process and lifeforms such as insects that will overtake the tree. The vibrations from the new tree will in time become the dominant source of information affecting the artwork.

Music is an important device in Buttress’s practice and a key facet in Blossom’s soundscape. Buttress collaborated with musicians in the United Kingdom such as Kev Bales and Tony Foster (BE) and musicians in Kentucky to create a library of sounds harmonious to the key of “C” (the resonant frequency of the mother tree). Their sonorous tones form an ever-changing musical accompaniment to this artwork. This is expressed as a subtle key change from minor to major which follows the progress of these trees’ growth and passage. The artist Benjamin Wigley collaborated with Buttress on the creation of the video on display.

Blossom thus presents a memory of the past, a document of the present, and a hope for the future. According to Buttress, “The sculpture expresses how life is formed and hopefully allows us to reconnect with the natural world around us.”

Learn more from artist Wolfgang Buttress in conversation with Director Stephen Reily

Wolfgang Buttress
English, born 1965
Blossom, 2018 – 2020
Mixed media installation
Commissioned by the Speed Art Museum through the generosity of Cary Brown and Steve Epstein.
Additional funds provided by the Alice Speed Stoll Endowed Art Acquisition Fund.
Exhibition season sponsored by:
Cary Brown and Steven E. Epstein
Paul and Deborah Chellgren
Debra and Ronald Murphy