The idea for this collage originated with that frequent cliché we’ve all probably heard before, but seems to be particularly common for us in the millennial generation – “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” It wasn’t until after reading an article discussing the difficulties of moving into a higher income bracket, especially in particular cities, that I began to question the basis underlying this phrase. Because, what if, money Did grow on trees?
If money grew on trees, would everyone be able to grow one? Or would there be money forests or farms that you could go to pick money if you happened to be short on rent or needed an emergency trip to the dentist? Would it begin to undervalue money itself or would it actually begin to solve the global issue of poverty which has been around for as long as money has been around? OR. Would there be a small portion of the population that would control the money trees and deny access to the remaining 99%? That thought was the one which spurred the creation of “For the Birds.”
The original concept came quickly but the elements took longer to come together. I knew I wanted to use play money in some capacity because of how utterly fascinating it is to me that we learn from such a young age about concept of money – not only its value and use, but the more subtle differences between when you have money and are Winning versus when you don’t have money and are Losing. The rest of the images began to fall into place as I played with how to form a tree out of money, which led to the question “what else makes a tree, a tree?” Fruit or the things that grow and fall from a tree contribute to its tree-ness, as do the animals that live in the trees. What would the fruit of a money tree be then? If the most precious part was the leaves, then the part that was constantly falling and more common would be pennies or other change. What animals would reside in a money tree? I happened to have saved an piece of wrapping paper which had older drawings of birds on it and it may have been the way their beaks were all pointed up, or their incredible exotic colors, or their tail plumage that looked like so many dresses from awards shows, but these seemed like prime residents of a money tree. Like so much of my work, it wasn’t until I played with how to arrange them in the tree that it made sense to not just have them reside there but to be the ones in control of the money.
The juxtaposition between the feast of the birds and the picnics of the people down below came from combining the concepts of what trees provide and what they are used for, mixed with the idea of how the two groups would use the resources of the tree. If they both used the fruit of the tree for eating, what fruit would be available to the one group and not the other and how would they each enjoy their respective fruits? Thus came about a feast for kings and a picnic for peasants. What I wasn't expecting the piece to also show though is despite the incredible differences between the two groups and all that separated them, they both enjoyed the shelter of the money tree as well as what it was able to provide to each, although of course, in vastly different degrees.