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The Passion of St. Ailanthus

  • Patterson Clark '78
  • The Passion of St. Ailanthus
  • 2015
  • Weed soot on white mulberry paper in Tree of Heaven frame
  • 36 x 30 x 4 inches
  • Courtesy of the artist

Patterson Clark, whose father was a botanist on the Hendrix faculty, grew up within the college community and attended Hendrix in the early 1970s. Clark fondly remembers the undergraduate art courses taught by professors Bill Hawes and Don Marr. After Clark graduated in 1977 with a BA in Biology, he returned to Hendrix for an additional year to complete a BA in Studio Art. He later earned an MFA in Art and Design from the California Institute of the Arts. Clark currently works as a senior graphics editor for POLITICO, producing data visualizations and informational graphics related to energy and environmental policy.

Clark also harvests exotic invasive plants, converting them into supplies to create art and music informed by their bounty. When unchecked by predators, these non-native plants can upset ecological balance and degrade biological diversity. By harvesting the vegetation, Clark helps provide a space for the return of native plants and the animals that depend on them.

The Passion of St. Ailanthus is an aedicula honoring an Ailanthus altissima, or Tree of Heaven, at the entrance of a downtown parking lot in Washington, D.C. The invasive tree has been hacked at, dismembered, rammed by vehicles and impaled by nails, screws and fencing — yet it continues to thrive. The piece’s black ink comes from the soot of burned Ailanthus wood; the paper is extracted from the inner bark of invasive White Mulberry. Clark cut the relief printing block from the lumber of invasive Norway Maple and sculpted the framing from Ailanthus wood.

© Windgate Museum of Art at Hendrix College