This community participation project was developed from my earlier work, A cure for plant blindness. The pandemic and the role that plants, in this instance, trees play in our daily lives shaped this project.  

During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown many of us worked and stayed close to home. In Australia most people could take daily exercise outside the home. Consequently, a form of looped walking became common: people walked to get out of the house rather than to reach a physical destination.  Those of us lucky enough to have time to walk found we could pay a new kind of attention to our neighbourhoods and to look more closely at the non-human life we live with.  

Embracing the Familiar asks us to convene with our local trees. Taking a rubbing around the girth of a tree was an invitation to spend time with a chosen tree. Positioned up close, with paper and crayon in hand, people took an impression of the bark. Each rubbing became a record of time spent with a tree a trace of this human/plant touch and contact.  

Participants were asked to write down the species and location of the tree, and to write something about their choice. These stories and the marks recorded with crayon and made visible with each plant’s colour form the backbone of this project.  

The stories are rich, expansive or simple, recording daily comings and goings; family milestones; playground antics; loss and hope; trees cut down or saved.   

The pandemic required my initial methodology of a hands-on local community project to become a mail-out home-based art project, promoted and accessed online. There were hundreds of responses from eager participants keen to connect with their local environment. International responses to the project were an unexpected result of this change in delivery, and a reminder of the global reach of Covid-19.  

The rubbings sent back to Tuggeranong Arts Centre have been translated to cloth using screenprinted metal salts and dye from the leaves and bark collected by participants. Embracing the Familiar exhibits all these works together at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre galleries. Each printed work documents the trace of the tree, the species of tree, the place it was collected and the initials of the person/s that collected it. Together all of the printed rubbings create a contemplative forest; a meeting place for memories, traces of place, and an appreciation for the (sometimes) unseen trees that surround us and help to ground us, in uncertain times.  

The stories shared by the community are here on the website. 

I would like to thank everyone who took a moment out of their day to create a rubbing. This work could not have happened without all the people and trees who joined in.