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Tree House: escapism and childhood outsiderism

(Written 8 July 2006)

Michael A. Robinson, Oeuve rire la faune etre, 2006

As one of the guest curators of the TREEHOUSE exhibition ( Taran Gallery Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts), Susannah Wesley considers the shade dappled dreams of the tree house, a place where illicit explorations meet escapist fantasies. This week at the summer soaked opening Leisure celebrates escapism and childhood outsiderism.

Recommended Reading:

Bridge To Terabithia – Katherine Paterson, 1977
The central crisis of the novel occurs when Jesse accompanies a teacher to an art show in Washington D.C., and Leslie goes to Terabithia alone. The rope breaks as she is swinging over the rain-swollen creek, and she drowns.

Jess Aarons had to be the Fastest runner at Lark Creek Elementary School, the best, but when he was challenged by Leslie Burke, a girl, that was just the beginning of a new season in Jess’s life. Leslie and her parents were new comers to the rural community where Jess Lived, and were thought to be a bit odd, for they didn’t even own a TV, though their house was filled with books. Some-what to Jess’s surprise, he and Leslie became friends, and the worlds of imagination and learning that she opened to him changed him for ever. It was Leslie’s idea to create Terabithia, their secret Kingdom in the woods where they reigned supreme.

Hollow Tree House – Enid Blyton, 1945
Blyton’s books managed to tap into the dreams of pre-pubescent children. The code words are ‘mystery’ and ‘adventure’. Children are free to play and explore without adult interference, more clearly than in most authors before or since. Adult characters are usually either authority figures (such as policemen, teachers, or parents) or adversaries to be conquered by the children.

In the Hollow Tree House two children and a small dog escape to a home in a hollow tree. Camouflaged by curtains of leaves, the children support themselves by hand crafting baskets from reeds and picking wild berries. Surviving on lemonade and chocolate they relax on swaying branches and rely on the kindness of friends. During a lightening storm of fantastic proportions the forest idyll comes to an end when the pair come to the aid of their blonde patron and little dog, Barker.


AMMA • Jacques Bilodeau • Michael Carroll • Rachel Echenberg / Sébastien Worsnip • Naomi London • Axel Morgenthaler • NIP Paysage • Michael Robinson

July 14 to September 10, 2006

Opening Thursday July 13th
Teen Tree house sculptures in gallery Espace Trois

TREE HOUSE brings together eight innovative tree house designs by nine Montreal artists, architects and landscape architects. The exhibition was inspired by the dramatic view onto Parc Mackenzie-King revealed through the large windows of the Gallery’s east wall.

The imaginative lure of a tree house extends from childhood memory to fantasy to ideas of home and dwelling. Guest curators Lesley Johnstone, Susannah Wesley and John Zeppetelli invited the participants to design imaginary tree houses, all of which are presented on tree branches standing and/or suspended in the gallery space. Through such works as an upholstered tree sculpture, a house built from light and another formed of conceptual modernist cubes, the exhibition presents an opportunity to explore the cultural iconography of the tree house as an imaginative space as well as a philosophical and conceptual object.

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