Silk Floss Tree


Silk Floss Tree

Rebecca Aranda


“It’s just an audacious tree.”

Interview by L. Valena

First, can you please describe what you responded to?

In the piece I received, it was the colors and the shapes I responded to, primarily. It struck me as an odd, sort of sensual piece, and it reminded me of both a landscape and a body. When I see a mountain range, it always looks like a sleeping giant to me. The curves of a body, taking a nap. So for a while, I was looking to do a picture of the mountains near us, or the hills, but in general I just started looking around in nature to see if I could find some of the shapes in the piece, and we were walking around in the botanical gardens and came across this tree. It's called a white silk floss tree, from South America.

A what?

A white silk floss tree.

A white silk floss tree.

Yeah! Its flowers make a fine, kinda like a cotton, in the flowers.

Isn't nature just so weird?

It is! And then also, what a funky tree- it has such a great sensual shape. And I looked it up. It stores fat in its trunk, and it has thorns that are mostly decorative. They don't really serve any purpose, it's just like 'look at me with my funky thorns'. It's just an audacious tree.

I took the photo into photoshop, and started messing with tones and curves, things like that, until I got something I felt satisfied with.

I love that if feels almost collage-y. Which, I guess the piece you responded to does as well, so it's cool that you were able to keep that element.

Yeah, and it was kind of a happy coincidence. When I looked at the photo by itself there was just this huge white space of the sky there, and I was thinking I wanted to put a little box there. But then I looked through some other photos I had taken of the tree, and realized I could put a close-up there. Which I think really works too, because it creates like an echo of the sensuality of the tree, and emphasizes it. There's a strange, kind of suggestive hole in the middle of it, which I think makes you do a bit of a double take.

When you look at this now, what does it say to you?

Well, it was kind of neat putting it in a different color. Actually, that same day I was walking around the botanical gardens with these sunglasses that we have- we call them beta blockers, and they have these funny orange lenses. When you put them on it turns everything into this strange saturated orange. But they don't just turn everything orange, they also change the tones of everything you're looking at. So, when I was working with this in photoshop, it kind of reminded me of that. It's something that you may have just looked at and said 'oh, that's a cool tree', but then done a double take when seeing it through a different lens.

After I made it I realized that it's kind of crazy that just changing the colors or tones of an image could make you consider it in a different way. When you change the shadows or the light in a image it changes it, from a normal tree, to a very sensual tree, to a very menacing tree. Or you could bring the shadows up and make it into a very melancholic tree. So it was really fun to play with the different tones that I could make, and the different kinds of things this one image could suggest, with different manipulations.

Do you often do abstract work like this?

I don't, actually, but I should do it more often because it was really fun. Since I do photography for work, sometimes it's hard to take off the work hat and then do it creatively for fun, but this was a great opportunity to remind me of why I like photography to begin with. Kind of like finding the art that's around you in everyday life, and taking a snapshot of it, and finding different ways to present it and to frame it.

Have ever heard of a Coco de Mer?

No I haven't!

Oh man, if you're excited about weird trees, you'll love this. It's like the most pornagraphic tree in the world.

Oh boy!

It's tree that has coconuts, but they're like the most yonic coconuts you've ever seen.

It makes me think of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings. In interviews and stuff she always said 'I was not doing anything of the sort, I was just painting flowers'. But, is she just saying that to just kind of say fuck off? Is she providing that defense because it really, deeply is about that?

And in the end, no matter what her intentions, if everyone looking at them is seeing something else, that's what it is for them. The artist can only ever put the stuff out, and see what other people pick up.

Exactly. That will be pretty cool too, to see what other people see when they see this image.

Do you have any advice for someone else doing this project?

Just kind of keep your mind open to any possibilities that might pop up. I kept thinking I should stage some kind of really meticulous still-life, but in the end just walking around and finding something that happened to mimic the shape I was thinking of, and it totally worked.

Call Number: M5VA | M8VA.araSi



Rebecca Aranda is an LA-based photographer. Her main area of focus is documentary photography; she shoots events and weddings as her day job and is working on long-term documentary projects in the meantime. She adores the Bait/Switch ethos and wishes she could come out to Boston to meet all the lovely artists involved. Until then, she invites you to follow her on instagram at @arandaphotos and say hello if you're ever in Los Angeles (she knows all the best places to get tacos and vegetarian food).