One of Chinati’s less visible design charms is the niche Donald Judd added to the wall around the Chamberlain building’s courtyard. Within this slightly protruding alcove grows a Bur Oak. Bur Oaks are known for having giant trunks and for being very wide. They can also grow to great heights, generally reaching 70 to 80 feet tall, although sometimes they can grow to be over 100 feet tall! Standing under the green leaves of a Bur Oak is the perfect place to seek shade, except for in the winter when the tree sheds its leaves. Bur Oaks grow large, fringed acorns; in fact, the name Bur Oak derives from the shape of the acorn. The cup of the acorn resembles the spiny bur of a chestnut. Several birds and mammals feast on the trees’ acorns and help to disperse the seeds. Indigenous American used the inner bark for several medicinal remedies. They also ate the acorns after roasting or boiling them to get rid of the bitter taste. Bur Oak wood is heavy and hard, which makes it an excellent building material.
Can you build a tree from objects you find around the house? Gather a variety of objects of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. Consider what objects will create the trunk, the branches, the leaves, and any animals that might live in or visit the tree. As you begin to build your tree, think about how you will attach each part. Tape, wire, pipe cleaners, or string might help to attach each section. Will the tree be freestanding? How tall will your tree be? When you are done, imagine how you would interact with the tree! Would you climb it? Camp under it? Hang decorations from its branches?