Human nature: Artist dresses Park Slope trees in sweaters

Brightly colored sweaters have been popping up on trees along 16th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues in Park Slope. Just in time for winter.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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 noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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