Lucas Reiner
Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts Foundation

Lucas Reiner’s fascination with trees is surprising at first glance. Reiner is the quintessentially urban painter, print maker and photographer, dividing his time between Los Angeles and Berlin, who will speak in Parks Exhibition Center, on the Idyllwild Arts campus, at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13.

But a book about Reiner’s depictions of the trees of Los Angeles that compares him to the old monk poet Basho, who, it was said, would go into the mountains to pay tribute to specific trees, makes the point that the trees of cities may deserve our attention above all others.

The book is called “Lucas Reiner: Los Angeles Trees, 2001-2008.” It asks why artists took so long to address suffering city trees since Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park, had commented on the savaging of urban trees as far back as 1870.   

It’s fortunate that Reiner, the son of Carl Reiner and the husband of actress Maud Winchester, has led the way in artistic representations of the devastation of city trees.

Yet that kind of leadership demands more than caring about trees, or Reiner would be an arborist rather than artist. The book about Reiner suggests that he explores not just “the phenomenology of the tree” but “the possibilities of painting,” and Art in America lauds his “controlled approach,” which “creates a template by which the world can be reduced to its juicy details” and be “filled with genuine feeling.”    

An artist who is passionate about trees and also about the details of the world that evoke profound feeling sounds ideal for Idyllwild Arts. He’ll be on its forested campus this week, talking about how the world evokes profound feeling in all of us and about the importance of a creative response.     

The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited.

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