Plastic Trees

It all began with one gigantic palm tree, smack bang in the middle of a freshly trimmed, front yard lawn in Melbourne’s suburbia. Its phallic like disruption of the local skyline could be witnessed all the way from the next suburb, pointing into the air to say, “Look, here I am!”

After I noticed one, Badder-Meinhof phenomenon took my hand and lead me to the rest. It became an obsession, finding all of the oddly placed tropical palms in gardens across rural and urban Victoria. I photographed these trees and it led me to other patterns, such as painted shapes on driveway fences, fake lawn juxtaposed next to real lawn nature strips and the consistent uncanniness of private life meeting public voyeurism.

I began to turn these photographs into sculptures, using brick cladding, fake grass and marble contact paper to decorate the surfaces of my studio and objects I was constructing. I developed a swatch of objects referencing the moments of bizarre attempted illusion I was fascinated by.

My favourite creation at this time was the concrete bike. I covered my beloved childhood bike in a layer of grey concrete, and propped it against and within the agglomeration of crafted mimicry. Rephotographing the objects in their new milieu, contrasted against the original images I had taken on the streets, meant that I found my work spiraling further into the meta land of my mind. If you could keep up, you were doing well.

After the culmination of this work in my graduate show in Art School, I continued to photograph palm trees. When I couldn’t go out, I used my recycling to make palm tree replicas in my kitchen using cereal boxes, milk bottles and soup cans. I was growing a garden of plastic trees in my living room. If you had come to visit me, living alone in my little unit in Brunswick at this time, you would have felt the hysteria. I was more than lost and beginning my first plunge into a depression that would fluctuate throughout my early twenties. Having no job, no prospective career lined up and not successfully getting into an honors year, I sat at home waiting for someone or something to save me. At my lowest point I had $3 left in my bank account and only one can of soup left in my kitchen cupboard. But my stoic grandmothers genes and my mothers proud nature held strong, and somehow I built resilience through the action of photographing and transforming, using any materials I could, to release my creative energy.

I can’t remember the exact order of things, whether I got a new housemate, fell in ‘love’, or finally found a job first, but these things were in full swing by the April of that fateful year, post university. Life began, and the palm trees faded, new obsessions with costume, drag, sex and music replacing them.

But even now, as I walk through neighborhoods, visit new cities and live in a new country, the uncanny continues to stalk my shadows.