Tree of Life Installation- San Antonio Public Art Commission

21 Dec
December 21, 2015


The Tree of Life: a well-known motif used throughout many world cultures, is symbolic of strength, growth and legacy. It’s a positive image, suitable for any community but chosen for this particular project because of the embodiment of hope, a common experience and new beginnings. These are things we all relate to. This particular Tree of Life is nestled in the green space courtyard at the housing development of The Gardens of San Juan Square, where all of the apartment windows look out into this green space, serving as a daily reminder of family and home.

San Juan Drawings-111314_Page_9-2

Drawing by Landscape Architect, Gary Lehman of G Studio


Once again, we turned to the cultural narrative of the community as we made our decision for this piece. The Tree of Life is a historical form of art, based on the Biblical narrative connecting all forms of creation. The traditional Mexican version is expressed in clay sculpture, however our Tree of Life is constructed of steel and bronze, but maintains the symbolism of connection through the home, nest and tree imagery.

The installation includes a gazebo, with metal vines that wrap around the columns. The vines are reminiscent of the Zarzamora (blackberry) plant, which is the street address of the community. From the gazebo, roots become visible that gently curve through the landscape, connecting to the house sculpture culminating in branches upholding a nest, which is woven from bronze, copper and steel. The sculpture is rendered as if it is a drawing in space and because the format is linear, the viewer can experience the landscape as the house frames it, as well as enter the house and experience the landscape from within.  The sculpture plays with our perceptions of interior and exterior, the intimacy of home and our public place in community.

The scale and size of the installation was engineered by Great Lakes Metal Works, utilizing two types of steel; stock imprinted with a tree bark texture from Germany and another stock which was hammered for the desired effect. The roots were plotted and dug out by hand with the help of ambassadors from Haven for Hope, a local organization that exists to equip those struggling with homelessness. We used river rock and rainbow gravel to fill the root systems of the installation, to give a natural feeling of flow and movement.


Artist Donna Zarbin-Byrne working on the nest for the house sculpture


Ambassadors from Haven for Hope, working diligently alongside artist Diana Rodrigues Gil on the installation.


Our progress at the Gardens of San Juan was recently documented for a local San Antonio news station, KSAT (see top of post).




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