©Madelon Galland, “Baiser sur Blessure” (Kiss Cut), 2018
I completed this new site specific work for the bi-annual sculpture show in St Ambroix, Printemps de la Sculpture . And it is from the invitation to participate in this show, with the Stump Project, that I was motivated to create this website/blog as a companion site and to give historical context to the work I am showing there. I am also interested to use this platform as a forum to open up the project by way of DIY instructions , to fans who want to contribute to The Stump Project in situ, and have this online gallery to show their efforts within the broader context of this project. Submissions are welcome through the contact page.
On May 19th, 2018 I will be doing a demonstration/action at the location La Maison Guiraud from 2pm – on an enormous uprooted stump. Come watch and learn if you are in the area!
©Madelon Galland, Big Tree Little Stump, Memphis, TN 2002
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien left an irreparable impression on me since childhood. I adored the story but always felt sad and unresolved at its ending. It wasn’t until I began to notice all the tree stumps in my neighborhood of the East Village in NYC, that a direct response occurred to me, upholster the blighted stump! Honor her, put her on the radar like a roadside shrine, an homage to her pith.
I was soon to be between studios at the time and doing something on the street became my public studio and a way in which I could subvert the normal and staid avenues of exhibition opportunity. Many things came together that made this intervention completely obvious to me and necessary. There was the blight, there was the frame, there was the ambiguity of responsablity, there was the beloved story still worn in my heart, there was a solution to help the tree stump perk herself up, there was the wonderful absurdity and interaction with the public, the going against the grain that invigorated me, the standing still in the current of city life, and the humility of getting on my knees in the sidewalks of New York, to clean away the garbage and cigarette buts and in what I felt as a caring act of upholstering these tree stumps, put them on our radar and illuminate the way in which we love and use nature to its nub.
©Madelon Galland, Times Square Stump, 2000
The STUMP project began in 1999 on the sidewalks of New York City. The sidewalk plots where there are tree stumps are generally neglected spaces left to collect debris. Seeing the tree stump recalled a childhood story, The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, in which a tree has given of herself to the point of being diminished to a stump, but selflessly perks herself up to give to the last, by providing a seat for the beloved boy who is now an aged man. To upholster the sidewalk stump was a way to honor that which had been diminished, and bring it back into relationship with the neighborhood. I am interested by what happens in a public space when I demonstrate care for something which is not “mine”. I am still motivated to respond to the world in this way and am frequently nursing sick street dogs. To kneel down to the disparaged has been a tremendous opportunity for opening the heart. And it addresses the displaced and reductive state of our relationship to nature in an urban environment, or any civilized society. Wherever upholstering a tree stump is sited, it speaks to our relationship with what has been cast off and it is an activation and sublimation of dejected forms and neglected spaces.
©Madelon Galland, Ramapo 4, 2001
Why upholster a tree stump?
In cities frequently there are stumps along the sidewalks, trees that have been cut down due to disease or vehicular damage, or nearby development. Once you begin looking I think you will find them ubiquitous, in city or countryside. And once a tree stump is upholstered, stump awareness begins to flourish. This is why I need your help, there are too many tree stumps for me to upholster single handedly. I would love to collect documentation of your work so as to compile a website of upholstered stumps from all corners of the globe. This really began as unauthorized public art, and is not intended as something to have, but rather as a gesture to give. The street stumps are anchored and framed with firm roots and city masonry as they are, and what we do is contribute, care, and dignify that which has been diminished thus giving vitality again to spaces usually below the pedestrian radar. Working in the urban areas is quite easy because these small sidewalk plots, where the tree stumps are found, have an ambiguous jurisdiction and allow for engaged activity without provoking upset, only occasional curiosity. I tend to act more spontaneously and from a perspective that where something is obviously blighted, one shouldn’t have to ask permission to care. So it’s best to work in places where it’s quite obvious that no one is taking responsibility for the care of the space or tree stump. Engaging to care for something in public space is a radical gesture indeed; it changes our measurement of responsibility into more simply, the ability to respond.
How to Upholster a Tree Stump revised…
You will need:
- Tree stump- found easily inmost neighborhoods.
- Pattern – crayon rubbing on paper, to trace outline of stump.
- Marker, crayon or tailors chalk to create the template.
- Foam or Batting – to create a cushion
- Vinyl – with some stretch for fitting and for longevity outdoors.
- Heavy duty staple gun
- 12mm staples
- Small hammer
- Screw Driver- flat head for removing problematic staples
- Needle nose pliers- for removing even more problematic staples
- Rubber cement for adhering gimp to vinyl before tacking.
- Gimp – a decorative upholstery trimming for a finished look.
- Upholstery tacks with curved heads
- Camera- please send photos of completed Stump to me with your name and the location and a note on your experience.
- First locate a tree stump in your neighborhood. Look low and around, they will appear. Measure the piece to be upholstered by taking a rubbing – laying paper over the top of the stump and rub a dark color crayon around it edges to get a proper outline of the shape; this will be the working pattern.
- Do most of the preparation at home so as to arrive prepared at the site in order to make the piece in one sitting. Application on site can take from a half hour to two hours depending on the size of the piece and how many conversations you get involved in with onlookers. That it is work that doesn’t define itself as art expands the implications and possibilities of its purpose.
- Cut out the pattern and place over the foam, mark 1/2 inch around the circumference of the pattern for the foam piece. Cut with scissors or foam cutting blade. If I use batting instead of foam often I will stack two pieces, as it lacks the density of foam.
- Lay the pattern face down on the backside of the vinyl and give a generous border around the pattern of 2 –3 inches; this will be cut away after it has been attached to the stump. For more flexibility when stretching the vinyl, I make a 1/2” zig zag edge.
- Cut the length of gimp generously and prepare the gimp by applying rubber cement to the back and letting it dry, this will adhere on site when applied to another surface with rubber cement, as it is a contact cement.
- Bring all tools and materials to the site and begin by laying the cut out foam over the surface of the stump you want to cushion.
- Lay the vinyl evenly on top and using the staple gun, cautiously, tack the vinyl into place from north to south then east to west, tacking only one or two staples at each pole and pulling the vinyl taught before each staple is added. Staples should enter the wood parallel to the seat and remain consistently 1/2” down from the flat cut surface of the stump or just under the foam where it fold over the side.
- Now there are four points holding the vinyl evenly in place. To get a smooth taught surface, work as you would to stretch a canvas. Staple the vinyl into place by working in quadrants. After completing one quadrant, move to its opposite, stapling in the same direction within each quadrant. Try to keep the line of staples evenly 1/2 inch down from the edge. Where there are errors you can remove staples with needle nose pliers or screwdriver. Once it looks even and desirable, hammer in the staples that might be raised from the surface.
- Now cut the vinyl and padding as close to the staples as you can and apply rubber cement over the stapled edge in a 1/2” border, and let dry.
- Adhere the gimp/ribbon to this edge, overlapping the last inch of gimp. Now the trimming is held into place and can be finished with upholstery tacks. The gimp usually has a pattern you can use as a guide for spacing the tacks evenly.
- Space and hammer the tacks into place and the upholstered stump is finished.
Call to Action
The STUMP Project is being used to activate spaces that have been under neglect. It is a way of participating with what is signified in a tree stump, a beloved life form that has been diminished. Upholstering stumps is as a gesture of caring and a posture of respect toward what is beneath our feet. This project has much larger ramifications and begins a dialogue. Where jurisdiction is ambiguous, and responsibility obviously shrugged – there lies an opportunity for an art intervention. I don’t believe one’s impetus to care should be censored for lack of permissions.
This is motivated by a personal wish to exhibit care in a public space by honoring that which has been blighted or neglected. An Upholstered tree stump engages the community around the work with visual provocation. It also encourages dialogue and between artists -which manifests in other gestures in response around the neighborhood. Your contribution, participation in this project would be beautiful and part of its development. I would love if people doing this anywhere would document their work and send me a picture for publication on the website :
I will be publishing earnest contributions and related content, please send in your submission requests through the contact page.
©Madelon Galland, Closet Installation, ABC No Rio, NYC, 2000
This was a floor to ceiling upholstered, rescued “weed tree” installation at Abc No Rio’s Ides of March show. They had cut it from their yard as it was a weed, and I quickly decided it was my project for the show. It later transformed into a 14′ high installation at my MFA Thesis show at Hunter College.
©Madelon Galland, Homeless Tree, Hell’s Kitchen 2002
I found this uprooted tree in a parking lot, under an overpass in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. Nearby were empty sleeping bags, bottles and debris, and I was moved to drag this tree into my studio and cover it in felt, rubbing it head to toe, trunk and root, in hot soap to matte the wool fibers around its cold corpse and then I placed it back to where it lay. Years later, watching “In the Cut” by Jane Campion…I recognized it in the titles intro, it made a blurry cameo appearance. This is not a place of pedestrian traffic, but someone had seen it and was moved to film it, and that’s the kind of clue I love that something binds us together in this great big messy world.
by Madelon Galland, December 13, 1999
The changes we have witnessed in this century promise to evolve at an even greater speed as the volume of the world collapses under the reach of globalization and technological herding. Under the acceleration of commodification in late capitalism, in which all forms of opposition are absorbed, co-opted and commodified to the point of dissolution, we stand at the brink of the 21st century; dispossessed of any authenticity, integrity, power or even recourse to the “self”. The disparity created when care has been assigned an exchange value, when productivity and net worth stand as the guage of human accomplishment, and distance masks itself as proximity, magnifies the fact of our impotence and alienation. Co-opted as we are by the roles we play for our survival, the self reveals itself as merely a fractured lineage of imposters, each catering to the specified expectation of roles imposed from without: daughter, sister, worker, boss, taxpayer, consumer, teacher, student, friend, lover, patient, client, neighbor, landlord, tenant, victim, perpetrator, biological being, thinking being, doing being, artist.
Art must resonate with the discord of being. Art should reek of the agitation from which it arises. The dilemma of permissiveness in art at this time in history proves how capitalism has been reified in the individual, making all radical gestures mute. We have been robbed of the illusion of originality, and integrity has become obsolete. How do we proceed when there is no edge to push against? We proceed by investigation, by the humble awareness and full immersion into this disparity. Contradiction is unavoidable and should be itself appropriated to compound the fact of our dispossession. Steeped in the residue of this theft we can imagine a space uninhabited by commodity colonialism, even if only by pointing to its absence. It is this absence that art should extend to the world , make both palpable and intangible, a boundless arena for contemplation and impenetrable to claims of ownership.