Sam Van Aken: Living Artwork

Sam Van Aken tree along the KSAT
Young tree with orange grafting markers
San Van Aken is the artist behind the Tree of 40 Fruit. He created this extraordinary living sculpture for KSAT using a technique passed down by his grandfather. Van Aken’s process involved the grafting of native and antique stone fruit varieties onto a single tree, allowing him to collapse an entire orchard into a single organism. KSAT’s tree blossoms in varied tones of pink, crimson, and white, and in fall bears a variety of stone fruits.
 
I collected all these varieties, and then I found out that I had some of the only existing ones.
Sam Van Aken
 
In a recent article by The New Yorker Magazine about the artist and his work, he stated, “I collected all these varieties, and then I found out that I had some of the only existing ones.” This realization helped fuel Van Aken’s new art installation “Open Orchard,” which opened to the public this April at Governors Island and includes 100 hybrid fruit trees in two groves. These multiple varieties which originated or were historically grown in the New York City region over the past 400 years, but have been lost to the industrialization of agriculture, are now preserved for future generations.