Human nature: Artist dresses Park Slope trees in sweaters

The Brooklyn Paper
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Here’s one crowd that won’t bark about getting a homemade sweaters for the holidays — because trees can’t complain!

A quirky Park Slope street artist has dressed a strip of trees on 16th Street in knitted sweaters to encourage passers-by to “rethink their environment.”

“It’s a gesture of compassion for the tree — even though I know it doesn’t actually do anything,” said Laurie Russell, a 58-year-old painter who adorned four trees between Seventh amd Eighth avenues with winter outfits last week. “It brightens things up in the most bleak months.”

Russell says she’ll leave the grandma-goes-graffiti art up until March, through the coldest months, when leafless trees are nature’s version of naked.

Russell hatched the plan for the arbor-centric fashion show, which was first reported by Park Slope Patch, partly as a joke after messing up a human-sized sweater. She briefly considered designing wiener-dog garments before deciding it “would be funny” to ditch pups for pines.

Since starting the project in 2008 with an orange sweater, she has knitted an additional tube top for a new tree each year — in blue, orange, and pink.

She’s not alone in Brooklyn’s “yarn tagging” mini-movement: Guerilla-style street knitters such as Magda Sayeg and Knitta Please have wrapped bare parking meters in mini-sweaters in an attempt to transform drab objects into urban beauties.

Russell has a similar vision.

“I know there’s a subculture of knitters who are slightly crazy,” she said. “But it makes the dullest, coldest months feel warmer.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Homey from Brooklyn says:
God save us from moronic "artists"
Jan. 6, 2012, 8:29 am
sslope from south slope says:
I'd rather God save us from moronic homeys
Jan. 6, 2012, 8:55 am
dwtnbklyn from Brooklyn Downtown says:
Why not knit sweaters for the Prospect Park’s homeless tree dwellers instead park slope trees.
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:53 am
ty from pps says:
It's cute and colorful... why do folks have to be so negative. Lighten up!
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:57 am
UmadBro from wat says:
Homey should move to NJ.
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:58 am
PS says:
this is vandalism. where are the cops?
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:08 am
Dock Oscar from Grope Slope says:
These have been up for a while...see them every Sunday on the way to Terrace Bagels...yum.

Cute, fun, but now I look at trees and they seems naked, sensuously arching and writhing. I'm being titillated and confused by the counter-culture. I think we should be protected form seeing all of these scantily clad trees, shameless in their bare forms.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:02 pm
Native Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
This is the same mentality which must improve on what nature has presented us. A flower is a flower, and need not be spray-painted to achieve an artists ambitions. Nor does a tree need to be clothed, a hill draped with cloth, or a pond covered with a plastic tarp.

Freedom of expression does not mean that whatever someone says (knits, paints, writes) must be accepted carte blanche. Graffiti artists who were known to deface warehouse exteriors and public property, defended their spray-painting as art and expression. When an artist expresses herself on my property it's not free expression, it's vandalism, even though the object has not been destroyed.

Trees are public property, not the private easels upon which these "artists" are free to express themselves. Let them buy trees, bushes, whatever, knit cardigans for the trees, and then be self-satisfied in their self-expression.

But leave public property alone.

Conceptual art is just what it says - conceptual. And like all concepts, some are good, and some very bad. Next time someone feels the urge to knit a sweater for the bough of a tree, let them go into a friend's backyard, and let them knit to their heart's content. Just leave the public trees as you found them - unadorned except for bark and leaves.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:16 pm
prillis says:
i'm going to wipe my dog's ass with those things. how's that for art?
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:37 pm
Fuzzbee from Prospect height says:
ok THATS IT!!!! why is this all the time around here a tree has to have a sweeter on it now! cannot this jerk make it for a baby or KITTEN!!!!! an then the rain will rain down and swetener will get heavy and brake and branch will fall crush on a dog or small kitten-GREAT!!! this is one lonley jerk that gets a BIG TICKIT!!!!!
Jan. 6, 2012, 1:53 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Sorry, but it's ugly...if you wanted to beautify the block, what's wrong with doing some plantings instead of silly
hipster crap?
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:17 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
Native Brooklnite should just get over that this isn't the dull, crime infested, wanna be tough guy Brooklyn of old and maybe move to Staten Island or jersey with Prillis and PS. They're sweaters on trees people, they come off, and I’m sure if you ask people in Park Slope, most of them probably don’t mind them. Odds are they’re not on your block and it’s likely they’re not even in your neighborhood. Move on your petty lives.
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:18 pm
sslope from south slope says:
I live in the neighborhood and think they are cool and uniquely creative. The person who made them and put them up is definitely not a hipster or a newcomer to the neighborhood for that matter.

Dave from Park Slope is spot on.
Jan. 6, 2012, 3:05 pm
prillis says:
yes, i think it's the old lady on 16th that makes them, but i will still wipe my pooch's behind on em. they look soft.
Jan. 6, 2012, 3:15 pm
jooltman from Park Slope says:
As a Citizen Pruner (yes, Folks, it's true -- you too can be licensed to care for street trees) I have to object for several reasons. #1: If the installation of said "art" involves stepping in the tree pits near the trees, the soil will get (even more) compacted than it already is. #2: If the "art" gets wet and stays wet, it can create an unhappy environment for the bark, which is what protects trees from insects and disease. #3: I think it's setting a bad precedent. Street trees belong to everyone. They are not a palette for self-expression. I prefer them just as they are.
Jan. 6, 2012, 4:16 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Christo wannabe.

Jan. 6, 2012, 10:31 pm
John from Ditmas Park says:
Hey Laurie, come and wrap all of Coney Island Avenue. Has ever there been a thoroughfare so dull? So energy sapping?
Jan. 7, 2012, 1:53 am
thejeweymuppet from yours says:
TO PS.... you think this is vandalism? Just shut the f*** up. Seriously, you're an idiot. Spray painting a swatsticka is vandalism not a funny sweater on a tree, and to answer your question... where are the cops? They're fighting crime. You're looking for the fashion police.
Jan. 8, 2012, 3:51 pm
John Holmes from Park slope says:
All you guys act like you're so "concerned" about these ——ing trees, but I think that's just an excuse to come down on these sweaters. Who cares? Honestly how does this effect any of you?? Vandalism is when something is destroyed, or befouled, not something that has a god damn sweater on it.

I'm really glad there are so many conferences citizens out there, it's real ——ing refreshing.
Feb. 6, 2012, 10:02 pm

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