Saturday, February 19, 2011



On a road called the Loneliest Road in America stood a 80-year-old cottonwood tree covered in shoes. Located outside Middlegate, Nevada this landmark was a man made monument cut down by vandal's with a chainsaw. Just this week, a testament to man's need to give and to create is all but erased from the silhouette of the landscape.
The response to this local tragedy has become so wide spread that it made me stop and think, why this, why such a profound lost, from hundreds on Facebook, to the Governor, from the locals, to the tourist, and even the L.A. times. Full grown men were crying in public, at the location of this fallen tree, for all to see.

Could this overwhelming response be because this tree was for the people, by the people. No corporation sponsored the making of this shoe tree, the tree had never been advertised on television, or sold to us in a glossy magazine.                     
Could this be a civil affair, this shoe tree, and all others forms like it, are man made.
These creators are the designers, the decorators of a shared experience. No one has told them how and what to do. No one told these people they were making art.

Self expression, to design, to decorate has always been with man. He or she never really needs to be told why and what medium to use. People have found there way without sponsors and without commercialization for many many years. Sometimes it's not shoes that motivates them, sometimes the obsession can be anything that's available.  Old electrical conductors, tin cans, bottles, cast off junk, people will always find something that doesn't fit the mold to place there mark, to say I am here!

Personally,  I have had it with high art, high design, sales generated taste, they have it, it must be good, way of thinking. Enough!  Please no more flat surfaces telling me what to buy and where to go. I want to pitch shoes in a tree and know more will come. Sharing the same expression, sharing the same physical gesture of tossing a pair of shoes. Maybe this form of sharing and the loss of, explains the grief, Middlegate, Nevada is feeling.

In Florida there was a expressive man who was so fed up with the junk mail he was receiving he starting stacking all the trash, creating columns in rows through out his garden. All across his property were totems of waste, looking almost tribal in their primitive nature. Why would he do this? Where in his mind did it come from?

In the southern states it's not uncommon to see trees covered in bottles. I've been told placing bottles on trees and bushes originated in Africa and Haiti from the people forced in to slavery and  brought to America. They say the bottles capture evil spirits before they enter the house, keeping the occupants safe and
 away from harm. 

Being from the South myself, I can testify that people take their bottle tree's very seriously. From simple to highly decorative, they all say the same thing, I made this, I created this, simple me, now keep me safe. There is something very ceremonious about the more complicated creations, temple like, sort of a religion in the making.

Many of these bottle creations are a collective of sorts. Neighbours many times drop off pits and pieces of things, it's not uncommon for passer's by to throw things out the window of a car. Knowing good and well where it's going to end up.

On Mustang Island, in the Gulf of Mexico all it takes is one person to combine a found object or two and offer it to the public. This offering has become a custom over the years, it's never really talked about, just done. One person adds a piece of junk and then another, and another, until a county worker or a storm takes it away. The people know it's temporary but for a brief moment they are part of a group, a group of strangers leaving their mark. 

So to all the people that have pitched a pair of shoes up a tree, and to all the people who share creatively, and think outside the box. I salute you! To you unsung designers and decorators, you artist's of unknown origins, thank you, the people of Middlegate, Nevada, miss you.


Mark D. Ruffner said...

Kevin, thanks for a most creative and interesting posting! These pieces remind me of the excitement that time capsules always generate.

La Dolfina said...

I love this post Kevin!
My neighbors have a bottle tree in their backyard. I'm going to go make a contribution now :)
We are coming down March 4th.
Let's talk soon :)
Enjoy this long weekend my friend.

Mlle Paradis said...

Beautiful piece K.! Love the blue bottle trees but love the sentiment and the impulse most!

Charlotte said...

What a great post, Kevin!
I love bottle trees, and especially the one in the photo at the bottom. I wonder if bottle trees would work in the Northeast, or if the bottles would shatter in the extreme cold? Hmm....may be time to find out.

Kathy said...

Amen brother..

Amber Von Felts said...

Very nice post. What a great tribute to the spirit of human creativity! It is a real shame someone cut down the shoe tree. Whatta spoiled sport. I hope they are ashamed of themselves!

Angie said...

Kevin, I've been sort of M.I.A. in blogland lately. How nice it was to come back to a post like this. I feel so inspired!!

bonnie said...

I love this post. How sad that someone cut down that tree. I too am tired of mass produced, copycat elegance. To quote Dame Edith Sitwell," Good taste is the worst vice ever invented."

24 Corners said...

Love this post...and love the bottle trees too! The creative spirit is a very special gift, fun to see it used in so many unique ways.
So sad about the shoe tree. It's ironic that you posted this as I just found out that my neighbor is going to cut down a very ancient, huge and extremely beautiful tree this week, the last one left on her property...she's gotten rid of all the rest...I'm devestated and understand how those people feel, even though it doesn't have any shoes.
xo J~

the gardeners cottage said...

i had read about this tree being cut down by vandals and i was so upset. what the hell is wrong with people? omg.

anyway i agree with you fully on this post. and i never really knew what bottle trees were about until now so thanks for that little lesson.


Acanthus and Acorn said...

It seems we were in fact traveling down a similar road this week. This was so thought provoking because it really does honor the spontaneously creative. The shoe tree is a beautiful and great loss to everyone who ever saw it or knew about it. Good work on this post, I hope many read it!

lvroftiques said...

Hi Kevin. I'm having a bittersweet moment. On one hand I'm so happy to have found your blog (And a fellow treasure seeker) And on the other I'm with the people of Middlegate Nevada and brokenhearted about the shoe tree. Why does there always have to be some a$$hole who has to ruin it for others?

Ok I'm changing the topic before I start getting weepy myself......Love your blog header! And I'm not just sayin' that because I have the same chesterfield *winks* But as someone who NEEDS spring it's much appreciated. I'm your newest follower. Vanna

david john said...

kevin, what a gorgeous posting! can't wait to talk about it when we hang out next week... looking forward to chatting it up:)

see you soon,


Vintage Sea Muse said...

Hi, what a horrible thing to do to a tree, especially one with such meaning to the people. Makes you wonder what kind of person would do such a thing.

Love the bottle trees, very creative and inspirational ... :0)

Shirl x

amy said...

This is my favorite post you've done. i love the shoes, trash, bottles, etc made into art. i would cry (and feel like crying) about the shoe tree had it been a part of my life. i'm not sure why. for me it's partly that something created and enjoyed was taken away so quickly without reason. partly because it's beauty is gone and a redo won't have as much meaning. i've always subscribed to warhol's idea that anything in mass is beautiful. but i can see beauty in a junkyard or dead tree, etc. hmmm....see you've got me thinking and rambling. i'll go now and think about this beautiful tree today. hope you have a good one kevin!

Nest Studio said...

Great post! so insightful.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

A fantastic, very moving post. I was shouting along with you like I was at some gospel revival. You brightened my day.

Hollywood forever, Kevin said...

Dear Commenter's, Thank you so much for your understanding, it's nice to know you guys get it. I seem to have a smart, sensitive, and caring audience, what more could a blogger want.

To all that are new here at Hf,K, welcome and thank's for dropping by.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Thanks for your visit!
And thanks for leading me here to your fabulous blog! I know I shall visit often!

Tabitha said...

What a wonderful post, I've never seen or even heard of anything like that before. I think it's sacrilegious when someone cuts done a tree they are protective elders.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Kevin -
Bless you, you darling man, you! Ha!

betsy said...

I came upon a bottle tree once at Cape San Blas, Florida. The tree was dead-killed by beach erosion. I think people just added bottles to its branches when they happened on it. I think bottle trees were also features in the yards of country black people- those swept, lawnless yards that kept the weeds down and the rattlesnakes obvious-

by land by air by sea said...

dearest kevin,

i loved this post.

david john just wrote, and i wonder how all of this is possible?

6 degrees have become 2 degrees.

hope we see each other this year...

un beso


Mary Zeran said...

Fantastic!! I love bottle trees.

life, in small chunks said...

Hey Kevin, I am just now seeing this lovely, thought-provoking post. In the downtown of where I live there is a chain link fence around where an old building was torn down (couldn't be saved, sadly) and a new one has yet to be built. Someone came along and attached an old key to the fence. Within days there were dozens of keys attached and now, months later there are probably thousands. It is now proudly considered a piece of art in the community. That's the kind of art I like, too.

maison21 said...

lovely. never heard of, or have seen a bottle tree until your post today, so thanks for opening my eyes.

Leigh Trimble said...

Thank you for this Blog. So many people don't appreciate the making of art. We had a local man near by who built a fantasy of his own around his home with found objects. We would ride by to admire and then one day the dream was crushed and gone. We never knew if he had died or was made to take it down. It was a loss.