Blue Trees: It Can As Well Send a Wrong Message

LindaBy Linda Bachman
Published: April 28, 2015


BLUE is my favourite colour and I appreciate innovation in all the arts for it motivates the artist within me. And I can even appreciate some graffiti as art. But when I heard we were getting an international artist in Squamish, I expected something truly unique. I was excited and waiting to be inspired but I must say I’m utterly disappointed at the Blue Tree Project.
The Blue Tree project would cost the taxpayers $15,000, but have we really examined the trees and the message they will be sending?
In Port Moody, the blue trees outlived their welcome and seem to have subverted their own message of reforestation. The blue colour sprayed on the trees there was supposed to last for a few months, but the trees remained blue for over a year. Even though the claim is the blue paint is bio-degradable, the
debacle in Port Moody makes me curious about the paint itself. To ‘what if it doesn’t come off’, I would like to add a few more questions: Is it really safe for our life-giving trees? Can someone guarantee the paint won’t infiltrate our soil and pollute it?    
The artist painting these trees, Konstantin Dimopoulos, probably feels his art will raise awareness about deforestation, but the bitter irony is that this project may just itself destroy the trees we so love and appreciate in the West Coast.
Trees are an art in itself. If the district wanted a public display of art, they could have asked an artist to install a sculpture along the Highway, perhaps along an unsightly area along the Highway or an empty natural space that needs enhancing. To inspire and provoke thought, we don’t need to alter the natural landscape.
I have served on the Squamish Arts Council before and I know that creating a public art policy is extremely important for it brings to bear an expert artistic view on decisions we make as a municipality. I congratulate the district in working towards such a policy that would allow for a proper process and expert opinion before such decisions are made. And yet, I can’t help but wonder about the arbitrary nature of decisions that were made by those who may not have any background or expertise in public art. If the district had a proper policy on art, we may not have been having this debate for there would have been no approval.
I also wonder what the tourists will think of this art. Without extensive explanations, will they understand the Blue Trees as art or will they see it as train tagging, or worse, vandalism? Without a clear message, the blue trees may even put off tourists with environmental concerns. And has the district measured the tourism impact of previous Biennale installations? And I would really like to know how much Vancouver Biennial, the district and the artists have given back to reforestation efforts around the world?


  1. Dave Colwell says:

    How about this for an art project:
    Erect a series of “Patterson Style” bill-boards on either side of the highway entering town. Place pictures (as realistic, graphic and as explicit as possible), depicting Man’s inhumanity to Man and Man’s cruelty to children and animals.

    After-all it would just be “shock art”, right?

    Would our “neutral” Council allow this?

    In short, what are the limits to “Social Art?

    Comment’s please.

  2. Tree hugger says:

    I think that spraying any defenceless life form with paint is cruel and disrespectful.Havng studied Botany,I am concerned about the plants ability to carry out photosynthesis,with paint clogged stomata.The message I get from such an act of vandalism is one of mans lack of respect and exploitation of nature.Its not art if it harms living organisms.

  3. Dave Colwell says:

    Tree hugger: I think you meant to say Lenticels rather than Stomata but both are breathing holes. In the case of trees they are in the bark and will get clogged a bit.
    But the main point is, what is the point of all this anyway?
    To me Shock Art is a bit of an expression of desperation. The cause may seem noble but the the method is rather unnecessary.
    Alas, they will only say that they have achieved their goal by having us protest. I find this a bit pathetic.
    Remember the Artist who had a small mammal on “death row” in a cage. He stated that he was going to cut off its head (or something like that) at a stated time in public. I think his motive was for Animal Rights….Get it?

  4. Geo Hyperform says:

    This is a well-considered article. Most towns that begin a public art process also begin to develop policy, including a committee with no obvious political interest besides fostering more art. This avoids staff and political REPRESENTATIVES making uninformed and unjudicious approvals willy nilly . I tried, in vain, to advise one councillor how the blue trees are inappropriate on the grounds that they are not particularly contextual to Squamish and certainly give nothing back to artists living and working here. In fact the opposite is true. it serves an international art dealer with a “non-profit” society and a for-profit foreign artiste who knows little about this place we call “Squamish.. Once again Squamish, the money has all left your town. Indeed, not all public art will be loved by all the citizens but has the redeeming value of stirring productive debate, part of the all the wider ongoing conversations about community life .
    PS: the blue trees in Richmond are still fading and looking pretty shabby after 4 years.
    On another note: The log furniture ( more money that left town) that no one sits on but lots of people complain about should be moved to various more comfortable loungey places around town. But that would require an active public art committee ….or are these “artworks” actually subtley for sale, like most of the Biennale stuff.

  5. Vickie Nickel says:

    Please do not spray my trees blue. I find the concept of covering up mother natures art with a man made substance quite heinous if not nefarious. It negates our commitment to be an out door activity hub filled with natural wonder and beauty. Why would we jeopardize the natural beauty that is Squamish, and diminish our brand by embracing the commercialization of natures own art? Simply put, please leave the trees, the flowers, rivers and ocean the way nature intended them to be. If I wanted to see blue trees I could go to Disney land where the Dr Seuss display has many blue trees.