Tree of 40 Fruit aims to create a moment of rethinking as it blossoms in different tones of pink, white, and crimson in spring and then bears a multitude of stone fruit species throughout the summer. It also is a form of conservation, preserving native, heirloom, and antique varieties of fruit once grown in the area and now rare as the food industry slowly rejects varieties that do not travel well or have a long shelf life. Van Aken plans to create entire orchards of heirloom trees as a resource for individuals and growers to help reintroduce these forgotten fruit varieties.
Van Aken was hosted by Lafayette College where he lectured on his process, research, and conservation work on Tree of 40 Fruit in 2016. During the artist’s visit, Lafayette and members of the Easton community participated in the planting. His visit was sponsored by the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and Lafayette’s environmental engineering and art departments, art galleries, CaPA Scholarship, and Community-Based Teaching programs.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Van Aken grew up as a part of a farming family. A professor of art at Syracuse University, he received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In addition to his work based on stone fruits and orchards, he has combined new technology with traditional art methods, taking form in sculpture, sound, video, and performance. Prior works have included a radio hoax and a hole in the winter skies over New York.