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A Live Oak Dreams of Going to Sea

By the beginning of the 19th century, New England had become the leading shipbuilding region of the world. A key resource for the industry was southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana, a cheaper and stronger wood than any lumber available in Europe. The tree’s peculiar branches, full of angles, made it unfit for most construction but perfect for the load-bearing joints of ocean vessels. It’s the wood that earned the USS Constitution its nickname of Old Ironsides, for its resistance to cannon fire.

Recently, Longleaf Lumber in Cambridge has salvaged hundreds of beams of live oak from holding ponds in the Charlestown Navy Yard. This was timber harvested in the 1790’s to become materials for ships, yet it lay in submerged storage for over two hundred years while the wooden ship building industry died away.

To me this prompts a fanciful question: if wood could dream, what would these oak beams dream about?

The series A Live Oak Dreams of Going to Sea presents planks of salvaged live oak propped upright, with ghosted images of sea creatures, monsters and mermaids, silkscreened onto the surface in subtle tones.

In group, left to right:
Flying Fish — 35" x 10" x 7" sold
Two Dolphins — 54" x 14" x 7", $700
Kraken — 58" x 11" x 7", $700
Mermaid — 72" x 13" x 10", $900
Ship and Serpent — 69" x 13" x 10", $900

A Live Oak Dreams of Going to Sea
A Live Oak Dreams of Going to Sea
Oak, pine, steel
Various dimensions up to 72" tall
2015