When we were assigned the shoe tree as our site, at first we all thought our project we be a piece of cake. “This is easy. The site already has so much meaning,” we all thought. However, when we discussed how to approach dealing with the site, we soon realized that the shoe tree was actually quite difficult to deal with. There was already a sculpture there that had a huge amount of life and meaning. We couldn’t tamper with that. Instead, we needed to add to it, to expand the metaphor and meaning that was already there. So we thought about all the meanings with the tree. We discussed the long life of the tree, its connection to sex and new beginnings, its interactive role with the students, the sculpture’s ability to surpass time and generations, and the overall connection formed by putting all the shoes together in one place. Even though each pair of shoes tells a different story, they reflect the lives of the college and its students as a whole, past and present.
As we worked on our project, we began to emphasize the idea of connection between all students on campus whether they be male or female, or from the past or present. We bought long shoelaces and long white elastic bands, and tied them to old shoes that had fallen off the tree. Then, we threw the shoes back up and used them to connect the bands to the branches.
Then, we wrapped the bands around the center trunk of the tree, resulting in this branching out effect from the trunk. We connected each branch of shoes as one whole, uniting all the trees participants, and more metaphorically, uniting the sculptures meaning: life, interaction, sex, and new beginnings. From here we decided to expand on the ideas of people interacting with the tree, keeping the sculpture alive. We created cardboard footprints that we put on the trunk as if they were walking up the tree. We used cardboard from the Daily Grind to further reflect the fact that the tree represented the life of St. Mary’s.
Then, we created chalk footprints, some all the way from the dorms, some starting closer to the tree, and had them all walking towards the tree, showing its role as an interactive place, and showing its unity: all these different students came to the same place.
Finally, to really focus on the ideas that the metaphors stemmed from the whole tree, we took leaves and wrote words on them such as sex, love, life, and new and placed them at the little hole in the base of the trunk. We made it look like the leaves were spilling out to emphasize that these metaphors are so strong they literally pour out of the tree. We chose to write on the leaves because they age and change over time, just as the tree does as some shoes get old, and new ones are added.
As we finished in the late afternoon, the end effect was stunning. Our sculpture had made the tree evolve: it added to and emphasized the life that was already there. The shoe tree will always connect the students of St. Mary’s together and it will change, grow, and evolve just as they do.