Keepers of the Hill originally appeared as an exhibit at Albert R. Mann Library in February 2005. Cornell student of horticulture Matthew Pace ’07 created the installation as a class project for “The Art of Horticulture” (HORT 201) taught by Marcia Eames-Sheavly (Senior Extension Associate) in the fall of 2004. Matthew’s photography and poetry highlight the transcendent beauty sustained on campus by Cornell's trees, reminding us of the priceless gifts offered by our gnarled, leafy, and often taken-for-granted friends. Mann Library extends sincere thanks to Matthew Pace for gracing the library with his beautiful tribute to Cornell’s trees. We extend a warm invitation to the worldwide community to enjoy Matthew’s artwork through this virtual exhibit and take in a little of the nature that has made—and will make—the Cornell campus a memorable place of sojourn for many persons—in many fields—throughout the years.
This instillation is an outgrowth of a HORT 201 (The Art of Horticulture) project under the creative and knowledgeable guidance of Professor Marcia Eames-Sheavly. All of the photographs were taken using a Canon Elph 370Z film camera. The intent of this project is to examine the relationship between the trees of Cornell, the students who pass them by, and the relationships of the trees amongst themselves. The Cornell trees are the great observers of campus in every respect. They stand and watch the pageant of Cornelliana pass by day by day, the thread which binds us together. We (the students and professors) are merely the passers-by. They are the recorders of history and are often a part of that history. They are as much an essential element of this campus as the clock tower and the gorges. In my project I tried to photograph trees that spoke to me, whether it is in a voice of sadness or joy. In the end it did not matter if they were the tallest, oldest, dead or alive, just that they had a character and spirit. I felt I needed to express the dignity of Cornell's trees. As stated by the Lorax: "I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues." I had an obligation to express the inner beauty and voice of the trees I photographed.
Cornell's trees range from the three sisters of English elm who shelter the Balch Court Yard and are known by every freshmen, to the hidden weeping Japanese maple behind Warren Hall. Every tree adds its own personality and soul to the essence of Cornell; they impart a piece of themselves to all who pass by. It has become apparent to me that Cornell's trees help students to become bonded to their alma mater, to make it their own. If anyone is to question this love and devotion I point to the Ostrander elms tombstone or the line "beneath green elms with branches bowed in spring time suns" in the song "The Hill."
These references only deal with elms simply because at the time of their creation, elms were the most important trees on campus: they were Cornell. Even the phrase "the arch of Heaven," sung in "Far Above Cayuga's Waters" is sometimes used to describe the verdant mantle provided by Cornell's trees. It thus becomes apparent that part of Cornell's identity is directly linked to the trees that watch over her.
In my mind I have a working inventory of the trees on campus, from the looming oaks and embattled Zelkovas of the Arts Quad to the Kentucky coffee tree on the Ag Quad and the newly American elm cultivar on the southwestern corner of Sage Chapel's Green next to Ho Plaza. Every semester I add and 'file cabinet' some trees as they are planted and cut down. By 'file cabinet' I mean that even though the physical tree is no longer there, it still has the ability to live on in my memory, always reaching ever higher. This project is dedicated to the thousands of Cornell Trees that have come and gone, those who we passed by today, and those who are the seeds of tomorrow.
Matthew Pace '07