Deciduous trees are a Kodachrome delight for three seasons of the year — bursting with blossoms in spring, burgeoning with lush green or red hues in summer and a riot of coloration in fall. But in winter, they’re naked, stripped of pigmentation other than brownish-gray bark and bare branches that stab an icy sky, forming shattered-crystal patterns above the horizon.
However, a few select trees in Stony Brook and in ever-expanding locations around the world, including Oyster Bay, are festooned year-round in bright afghan-like palettes that are never more obvious than at this time of year.
You may barely notice the crocheted trees driving past the Long Island Museum on Route 25A. But eastbound during rush hour, you can’t miss the great tulip magnolia on your right, all dressed in blue and purple on its thick trunk and, extending upward and along its branches, in yellow and red. If you’re stuck at the light, you’ll also notice the black locust up the hill toward the Art Museum, dressed to a height of 45 feet in nylon cord fabric that weathers the seasons and repels, for the most part, even squirrels. Nylon is not in their diet, though they and occasionally a bird will undo a thread here and there. To your left, on the Visitors Center side of the museum campus, you’ll spot three smaller trees similarly costumed.
It’s all part of a project launched in 2015, meant to enhance the museum’s sculpture garden, after LIM director Neil Watson noticed knitted-tree photos in a group sculpture show at the Art League of Long Island. Carol Hummel of suburban Cleveland, who has a master of fine arts degree in sculpture from Kent State University, entered a 2003 art competition, crocheting trees in her hometown. “It went viral,” she says, “and became a phenomenon now called yarn-bombing.” She’s crocheted trees, monuments, edifices, railings — even parking meters — in Switzerland, Norway, India and across the United States, as well as a large tree at the top of the hill in Avalon Park, near the museum in Stony Brook, surrounding by crocheted saplings.
“It’s definitely brought attention to our museum,” says Watson, recalling a family from Massachusetts that stopped by after attending a funeral. “It seemed to lift their spirits on such a sad occasion.”
Museum curator Joshua Ruff noted how the project, involving 220 volunteers, became an organic community outreach. “We got volunteers who didn’t even know how to crochet before. Including me.”
A local company donated lifts to complete the project on the taller trees in which Hummel’s daughters, Molly Sedensky and Emily Ellyn, participated. “It was a family affair,” says Ruff.
In a phone interview, Hummel, who had just completed a “yarn-bombing” of palm trees for a Phish concert in Mexico, said, “We can do all this work ourselves, but I’d have to charge for all that. It’s inspirational to see volunteers come together to make something beautiful happen.”
WHAT Long Island Museum, Avalon Park and Preserve
INFO LIM: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays, 120 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook; 631-751-0066, longislandmuseum.org. Avalon: Dawn-dusk daily, 200 Harbor Hill Rd., Stony Brook; 631-689-0619, avalonparkandpreserve.org
WHAT Based on his memoir, “Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement,” this Hofstra University Museum exhibit documents through his photographic lens the actions of early civil rights advocates. The first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), formed in 1960 after a North Carolina lunch counter sit-in by four African-American college students, Lyon helped define a personally embedded approach to photojournalism.
WHEN | WHERE Through April 13, Hofstra’s Emily Lowe Gallery, Hempstead. Reception: 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, with a live performance of “Freedom Songs: Songs of the Movement.” Museum hours: noon-4 p.m. weekends, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays
ADMISSION Free; 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu/museum