Ghost Olive: Olive 4. 2004.
C-print mounted on aluminum.
48” x 58 1/2”.
Courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic Art Collection.
Cypresses: Mark 01, 2005
47 1/4″ x 59 1/16″
Courtesy of the artist and CRG Gallery, NY
During 2004-5, Gersht developed a series of photographs of olive trees and cypresses. The olive tree represents the Palestinian people and Arab culture while the cypresses are associated with Israelis. Olive trees chosen by Gersht were located in Arab villages throughout Galilee, the war-torn region in northern Israel. When Arab lands have been claimed for Israeli settlement, as they were during the Six-Day War in 1967, ancient trees such as this one are destroyed in the process of reclaiming land and establishing identity. In Gersht’s own words:
The trees I photographed are very old—they have lived through the Ottoman occupation, the British Mandate, and the current conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I wanted to photograph these silent and beautiful trees, but I wanted the process to relate to the violent environment they grow in.
This violence is expressed through the long burning exposure of film, which results in nearly black negatives from which the yellow, ghost-like trees emerge. The photographic process serves as metaphor for the fading presence of the majestic trees. The olive tree and its branches are powerful symbols, appearing in both the Koran and Old Testament of the Bible.
Parallel to the documentation of the gnarled, organic and asymmetrical olive trees, Gersht photographed a series of stoic geometric cypress trees. Equally symbolic throughout the Middle East are these spire-like evergreens, often associated with funerary sites and planted by Israelis in honor of soldiers killed in battle.
Director, Gund Gallery