Art Miami/Art Basel

Happy to be in Miami in December!

Happy to be in Miami in December!

Last week I was able to go to Miami for the annual spectacle that is Art Basel, in addition to the other concurrent art fairs that consume the city.  Since I was driving, my first stop was Savannah, Georgia where I picked up my spiritual advisor and one-time law partner, Brotha O. To get to Savannah, I had to brave the legendary Atlanta traffic and head on down through Macon and points east. Atlanta was busy, but I must have gotten lucky because the traffic was merely annoying, not rage inducing. In contrast, Southeast Georgia was, um…sparse…to put it bluntly. Between Macon and Savannah, there wasn’t much to see except for pine trees and the occasional town, unless you count the unusually large Bass Pro Shop(s) building that I passed. Seriously, it was like a mile long. But the drive was pleasant enough with a good audio book. Savannah itself, was an interesting town, I had never stopped there so it was nice to get a feel for the place. It was a funny mix of old southern charm and huge industrial sprawl. I really wasn’t expecting the industry (refineries, paper mills, etc.) part of the town, I had in my mind a much sleepier southern hamlet.  I spent two days wandering the city and meeting up with some old friends that happened to live in town, Matt, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years, and Mrs. Becklesworth. It was great to see those guys again. I was able to tour the art museum at a local art school and see other sights about town. The night life was festive and I enjoyed the bartenders asking if I wanted my drink ‘to go’ or not. In all, it was a nice detour through the deep south and even the cockroaches palmetto bugs seemed to enjoy the festive atmosphere.  A large, but friendly bug had come to greet us at our table in one of the local establishments, so we neatly trapped it under a pint glass in case the waitron wanted to take care of it. She declined to express much interest and left it to entertain our table, bless her heart…as they say.

Just a little ship leaving the port town of Savannah

Just a little ship leaving the port town of Savannah

Savannah was cloudy and cool as we left on our drive to Miami, but as my guide predicted the day before, the minute we hit the Florida line, the weather cleared and became comfortably warm.  Apparently, he has experience with this phenomenon from transporting his boys to soccer games in nearby Jacksonville, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. So, sunny Florida it is, and off we went in his 2005 Pontiac Emasculator with a fully stocked cooler and a fresh 16 oz. bottle of Tums.

Once in Miami, it was all sunshine and good times.  We were staying on the mainland, but there was still plenty to do within reach of just a few minutes driving.  Our first full day in the city, we decided to tackle Art Basel at the convention center. After a short drive to the island and a pleasant search for parking (shout out to gps traffic monitoring software!) we hit the spectacle full-on.  Naturally, the first thing you notice is that the place is enormous, but once you get over that it is easy to settle in to a rhythm to look at all the art.  Since neither Brotha’ O. nor myself had any pressing agenda for the day, we decided on a grid pattern to maximize our art fair capacity. We banged it out in just under 5 hours, which is scooting through the madness pretty fast. Normally, I can’t stand 5 hours of anything (no, not even golf) so I think we put in our yeoman service, for sure. What makes Art Basel a spectacle is not the artwork at the fair, but the people that come to see the people seeing the artwork.  I think.  It doesn’t appear to have much to do with new experience or cutting edge type art, in any case.  The major galleries that I saw (and there were nearly 300 major galleries on hand) were selling chestnuts and new standards. It reminded me of the top half of FM radio, where songs that sold well 40 years ago are still doing the work, while stations sprinkle in a few hits from 5 years ago to make it all seem fresh and exciting.  It makes me really wonder why the collectors are so attracted to the atmosphere of so little personal attention and mass commodity. Convenience? Ego? Deals? One collector I know talked about how it was akin to ‘shopping’, as in the ‘I have money to spend, and let’s see what we can go find to buy’, kind of shopping.  He also talked about continuing education for the collector, not necessarily what is new in the art world itself, but what is new in the gallery inventory from known artists. It does makes sense on all these levels why a collector would be attracted to the event.  As an academic, it makes much less sense, but it is no less valuable.

A trend that interests me about the fairs are the preponderance of galleries that show the same artists.  Last year, it was Wesselmann everywhere, this year it was oversized candy and/or doughnut wall sculptures.

mmmmmmmmm...doughnuts

mmmmmmmmm…doughnuts.  I kept seeing these around, they seemed to be a hit.  It’s odd that even an image of the delectable devils can be so popular….in fairness, they were 2x life size though.

Obviously, galleries from all over the world are not going to call each other and work out who to bring in advance, but it just seems so odd that they double up so much on the same few artists.  I wonder how they feel about it–if they are happy that the artists they are carrying are ‘hot’, or is it like showing up to a party with the same outfit on? (not a worry for me very often because every guy my age seems to show up wearing the same outfit anyway)  I noticed quite a few Mel Ramos’ at both Art Basel and Art Miami this year, as well. There were other examples, but none seem come to forefront of my flu-addled brain at this time.

Are the galleries that sell the big ticket items expecting a sale, or just hoping? Surely, a gallery must know a certain collector is willing to purchase before they load their Brancusi up in the mini-van and head on down.

I'll just throw this in the ol' duffle bag and head on down to Miami....

I’ll just throw this in the ol’ duffle bag and head on down to Miami….

I would guess there is a mixture of known knowns, and known unknowns if one were to Rummify the question.  Galleries know the big buyers and probably suspect interest from medium buyers, and probably also bring some newer stuff to try out, just in case.  There were a lot of pieces that I appreciated the galleries taking the time to ship to Miami because they are so cool to see. Others, you just have to wonder why would a gallery bother.  When I see a gallery with less than inspired work at an art fair, I always get the scene from The Jerk in my head where Steve Martin’s character loses his fortune and he just starts grabbing random stuff from his desk as he wanders out the door.  “All I need is this drawing. And this painting.  And this other painting. That’s all I need. And this watercolor, too. That’s all I need….”

In any case, it was a record year for sales with many galleries selling well at all price levels.  I read somewhere that there is a 100 percent re-application rate for galleries to come back next year.  If true, that would suggest that it is a very lucrative venture for all parties involved.

This light sculpture went for 900k reportedly

This light sculpture sold for 900k reportedly

Art Miami was kind of the same, but also kind of different.  It was the same in the spectacle and rodeo roundup type of atmosphere, but it seemed to have a more chill attitude. Perhaps a bit more personality.  It certainly is more informal in look and feel. It was also more crowded–smaller spaces, tighter turns, etc. This gives it a much more bazaar type feel than at the convention center.  It was on the mainland near the Wynwood Arts District in a series of large air-conditioned tents.  Inside, I saw some of the same works, but overall it has a much more contemporary feel.

interactive stuff was popular

interactive stuff was popular

As one might expect, the fairs that we saw were quite painting/2D heavy in comparison with sculpture.  Much of the sculpture that I saw was somewhat installation-y, with relatively few pieces dedicated to craft and form.  Big names were represented: Kapoor, Plensa, Turrell, Weiwei, but they were not very plentiful.  They were attention grabbers in my case though, because many of the sculptures I saw were very loose in craft and materials.  Clearly, I’m no Stuckist, but years of teaching Beginning Sculpture has me jaded, so when I see poorly constructed ready-mades or glue-a-thousand-of-these-together type sculptures in a professional setting, I tend to walk at a brisker pace.

Heads Up!

Heads Up!

shiny!

shiny!

Canadian Art!

Canadians in the House!

In the same manner, there were very few contemporary drawings on hand.  I see drawings at gallery openings and at university shows, so I know people are still making them, but I was surprised to see how little there were represented at the big fairs. Technology seemed to have a hot hand still, though last year I saw many more moving image paintings (the Harry Potter type of thing). This year it seemed to be represented by 3-D printed forms and cnc carving type pieces.

This sculpture was a forced perspective wood carving installation.  quite popular

This sculpture was a forced perspective wood carving installation. The largest figure in front was life size. It was totally badical, but it was hard to view without some disorientation and discomfort.

Lots of pencils...

Lots of pencils…

We were able to hit a couple collections while we were in the Wynwood District. Our first stop was The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse which has an outstanding group of sculptures that rivals many museum collections in scale. There, we met up with our old compatriot Pax who happens to live in mid-south Florida.  It was great to see our old friend after at least 10 years.  He told us some great stories like the time when his dad got a letter from Michael Heiser requesting some land to ‘dig a hole into’ (while we were coincidentally looking at a Michael Heiser sculpture).  We had a great time knocking around the museum catching up and seeing some great pieces.

Michael Heiser at Margulies

Michael Heiser at Margulies

At the Margulies Warehouse

At the Margulies Warehouse

Pax!

Pax!

Another great collection that we were able to visit was the Rubell Family Collection, which was housed in a repurposed DEA warehouse, also in Wynwood.  The collection we saw was heavy on painting, but of these, there were some really cool examples.  Apparently, the whole family is very involved with the collection–when we walked in there were three pre-teens manning the entry counter and thanking patrons for coming to their collection. One girl was handing out brochures and yelling ‘you deserve to have free stuff!’ at everyone.  While there, I saw Bomani Jones, the only celebrity sighting of the week (we missed the Drake/Diddy fight somehow) though Brotha O. says he isn’t a celebrity.  It was cool to see a sports guy at a museum (and not an easy one for the non-art indoctrinated, either).

Charles Ray at the Rubell Family Collection

Charles Ray at the Rubell Family Collection

Another mini art fair that we saw was at the Aqua, an art deco hotel on Miami Beach. Some of the hotels in the area rent out rooms to galleries to display their work. It is much cooler than you would think because they take out all the furniture and only have open wall space in each room.  It is very similar to walking through the other art fairs except that it is more intimate and somehow more friendly.  The dealers looked exhausted but seemed to be happy in general.

I think I'll skip the showers today, thank you

I think I’ll skip the showers today, thank you

One artist I particularly liked at Aqua was Im Jibin (http://www.shineartists.com/artists/imjibin) who had some fun plastic eyeless figures and sculptural arrangements. He was on hand to talk with, so that was even cooler. I suspect very few artists actually come to Miami for the fairs, especially not ones from as far away as Korea.

fair goers taking a break in the hot tub at Aqua

fair goers taking a break in the hot tub at Aqua

Miami was great for just walking around.  We were able so see so many cool and funny things just by happenstance.  Graffiti seems to be state sanctioned, so there is a lot of it, and some of it is even good.

We met my cousin for lunch one afternoon, and at the next table over, 5 or 6 college age types were tripping their faces off.  By the time we left, they were out in the street rolling around and carrying on (don’t worry, the traffic was so bad in Wynwood that they had virtually no shot at getting hurt). We also made it to the beach to check out that whole scene, but just as we got there, it started pouring rain, so we headed for the shelter of a bar and some cold frosty refreshments.

Other sights and sounds around the city were cool.  Christmas decorations were in full swing (which is always sort of strange in a tropical climate) and we saw people dressed up in strange artistic ways (a guy in a lobster suit of some kind was the most adventurous).  One of my favorite things that I saw was not necessarily art, but I read it that way. It was a crack in the ground that had been painted red.  Very simple and gimmicky, really, but in a town full of glitzy galleries and commodity, it seemed very appropriate and thoughtful.

chicken suit....

obligatory chicken suit….

My favorite meal (in a town full of great food) was a hole in the wall Honduran restaurant. They had the coldest beer I’ve ever had and some great food. It was a bit like one of those movie situations where when you walk in, the juke box skips and everybody turns and stares at you for a second.  After we stood around for long enough and we weren’t obviously going away, they took our order and cooked some great food. I felt like we passed some cool test and were ‘in’. Or, they were just busy and took awhile to get our order, one or the other… For tortillas, the cook had a basketball sized wad of dough that she would pinch off parts of and flatten for eventual frying.  I’d never seen this method in person, so that was pretty darn cool. Sanitary? Hard to say. Delicious? Most certainly.

Brotha O. and the coldest beer in town

Brotha O. and the coldest beer in town

Another night, we ended up at a ‘VIP’ party that was complete with bands, djs, and some celebrities (lil’ Wayne for example).  I didn’t actually see any famous people, but they were apparently there. This party was a mess, and it made me wonder who it was really for. The vacuous gaze and indifference of both the audience and the performers suggest it wasn’t for either of them.  Clearly, no one had paid to get in, it was all invite only, so it just seemed like a weird social experiment.  It came off as a marketing scheme, so maybe that’s what it really was.  As a rule, if I ever decide to go to this type of VIP party ever again, I hope someone has the decency to handcuff me to a bus station urinal instead. Let’s just say, it wasn’t my scene…

not my jam.  at all.

not my jam. at all.

Lava!  wait....no, just paint

Lava! wait….no, just paint

 

Christmas in Miami!

Christmas in Miami!

this creeper van was actually a pop-up gallery that we ventured into

this creeper van was actually a pop-up gallery that we ventured into

In all, it was an exhausting, but hilarious trip.  We saw some fantastic art and had a great time soaking up some of the fantastic art scene. I would definitely recommend that anyone interested in art check out the scene down in Miami at least once, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Advertisements

Breaking Ground at Sculpture Fields

Soon....

Soon….

For the past several months things have been moving around Sculpture Fields at Montague Park in Chattanooga. Specifically, dirt.  Lots of dirt. Over 2000 dump truck loads of fill (20,000 cubic yards) have been shipped in to the park and formed into berms and mounds. This ‘phase one’ part of the project is expected to include 2000 additional truckloads of dirt to finish the landscaping in the next few months.  On November 18, there was a groundbreaking ceremony that included the Board of Directors of Sculpture Fields, several local politicians, as well as other fans of the arts.  On the coldest day of the year (it’s early yet, but it was pretty cold for the average Southerner) the ceremony was complete with speeches by John Henry (the park’s founding member), the Mayor’s office, and other brave and hearty souls. Everyone that participated even got their own souvenir hard hat and shovel.

John Henry giving the media the scoop

John Henry giving the media the scoop

Distinguished dignitaries came from all over the state!

Distinguished dignitaries came from all over the state!

when they break out the hardhats, you know things are moving along

when they break out the hardhats, you know things are moving along

the tent had a heater, so that was a popular place...

the tent had a heater, so that was a popular place…

As an active participant in the park, I was invited to come help with the dirt construction a week earlier.  I came down for two days and helped direct and count dump truck loads of dirt, which was not the most glamorous of jobs, but it gave the regular crew a break so that they could do other tasks.

dump truck be dumpin'

dump truck be dumpin’

On the days I worked, they were running 5 dump trucks with a turn-around time of 20 minutes each.  Last month, at peak, they were running 14 dump trucks, so there was a truck every 2 minutes or so. In my short tenure, though, there was a lot of down time on the job in between truck loads.  For part of this down-time, I was able to pick rocks out of the topsoil (which brought up a whole host of childhood memories) and the rest of the time I got in some pushups (a great way to stay warm).  I remember growing up on our farm in Nashville and having to ‘rock’ the garden (we had about an acre of garden) which involved picking out rocks from the tilled soil before we planted. As a perfectionist in many ways, this was absolutely not the job for me. I couldn’t ever decide at which point the size of the rock was too small to remove from the garden or leave in the ground. While my brother, untroubled by the paralyses of indecision, would clear most of the garden of rocks, I would clear only several square feet (but they would be the cleanest section of the garden, by far).  While I did pick up a few boulders, John Henry’s sculpture crew did most of the work with the top soil culling, allowing me to concentrate on personal fitness (I managed to get in 500 pushups on Friday).

dirt lumps!

dirt lumps!

There were two bulldozers (one big, one small) running during the time I was there.  The large bulldozer was for leveling out the large mounds of dirt from the trucks, and the small one seemed to be for finesse work to shape the berms and grade the tops.  There is something that brings the little boy out in me when I get close to that kind of heavy machinery, so it was exciting to be playing in a giant sandbox.

large bulldozer leveling  stuff

large bulldozer leveling stuff

lil' dozer dozin'

lil’ dozer dozin’

A.J., the general contractor assured me though, once you’ve been on a bulldozer for 15 years or so, it kind of gets to be rote (not his exact words, but you get the drift).  The dirt mounds were being built in layers where trucks would dump piles of dirt, the large bulldozer would come by and level them, and then the compactor would roll back and forth over the top. To me, the compactor looked like a giant meat tenderizer driving up and down huge steak-shaped lumps of dirt.  Or, maybe I was just hungry…

The meat tenderizer broke, so there was a torch involved...

The meat tenderizer broke, so there was a torch involved…

Speaking of food, the dressing for the berms was put in place using a large front-end loader. This was the most popular machine of the day, because it had a heated cab. John Henry and his grand-nephew Henry split time picking up loads of topsoil and spreading them out over the newly compacted and manicured berms.

early morning, good thing that cab is heated!

early morning, good thing that cab is heated!

topsoil dressing

topsoil dressing

topsoil waiting to be spread

topsoil waiting to be spread

Large berms throughout the park will create a nice sense of flow for the visitors as they explore the area. There is a sense of wonder that happens when one crests a hill and discovers more sights and sounds are to had beyond what was originally seen. I think this approach will work very well for the layout of the park, and it will keep visitors excited as they tour the sculptures. It will also help manage the traffic and keep things moving in some sort of orderly fashion.  I can’t wait to see it all finished with vegetation grown in and other planned features next spring.

View to the north from large berm

View to the north from large berm

 

atop the 9' berm. Hard to tell, but it is pretty slope-y.  Broken truck in background for scale...

atop the 9′ berm. Hard to tell, but it is pretty slope-y. Broken truck in background for scale…

In all, it was a great experience to be a part of such an innovative and rewarding endeavor. I believe when the park opens in the spring it will be a great destination for the city of Chattanooga, but also a draw for art enthusiasts all over the country.  The monumental scale of sculpture that is planned to be displayed will be very exciting to see, even for the casual art goer.

ISC Conference in New Orleans

This year’s International Sculpture Center conference was in New Orleans, which was quite the host city.  There was incredible food, music, and….. oh, yeah, sculpture. The conference featured 250 artists and sculpture enthusiasts and 19 panel discussions, in addition to a host of other activities.  I got there a few days early to explore the city a bit before the conference started. I stayed in the French Quarter, which I would definitely recommend because there is so much to see and it is easily walkable.  I do not, however, recommend wearing sandals when walking about in the Vieux Carre…

Not many people out yet, but still lively

Not many people out yet, but still lively

I did a fair bit of walking for a few days and even took the cable car (which was agonizingly slow, but super fun). The city was surprisingly small in terms of getting around and unlike other southern cities, I never felt like I had to have a car.

Overall, the city felt very friendly and the people that I met were terribly interesting.  One server I met during lunch had a PhD in political science, which I thought was awesome. Awesome because everyone should be educated in such a way, no matter what their job.  Though it’s not city specific and just a sign of our times, it still had a funky N.O. disconnect to it for some reason.  Maybe because she was so much happier there in New Orleans as a server and not an academic in some small town away from family and friends..

filming of some chef show for television

filming of some chef show for television

One thing I loved about New Orleans was how unapologetic people were about what they did and how they lived.  For instance, I went to a bar for a happy hour drink and was chatting with the bartender (as much as I am capable of ‘chatting’ I suppose) and generally having a good time, when the air-conditioning vent above started dripping everywhere around me. When I pointed this out to him, the bartender said, “Well, it’s a human city”.  That really summed up the whole New Orleans experience for me as well as anything could have.

dixieland band approximate to massive construction project

dixieland band approximate to massive construction project

I walked past a street band that was performing next to a construction project, an occurrence that I also thought summed up the experience well. No one seemed to mind or even to really acknowledge the fact that the band was being drowned out at times by the cement mixer next door. Some of the construction workers were on break (probably) and sitting on steps across the street enjoying the show, while other workers were busy rattling away at their jobs.  It’s as if the band was in its routine in their regular spot with the understanding that the construction was just a temporary inconvenience that would be gone in a few short months.  This tolerance for hardship and unconcerned perseverance had a city-wide feel to it for sure.

So, there seemed to be just random stuff going on all the time...

So, there seemed to be just random stuff going on all the time…

The conference itself had a lot of activities and events that appealed to artists, collectors, and all comers interested in sculpture.  There were artist talks, expert panels, city tours, and social gatherings.  I would recommend the conference to anyone interested in networking or just looking to learn more about sculpture in general. I took a city tour of artists’ and collectors’ houses in the city. It was a great way to see the local-centric view of what art is like for the folks in New Orleans.

Bruce Davenport in his home/studio

Bruce Davenport in his home/studio

A local artist that I enjoyed meeting was Bruce Davenport who lives in the lower 9th ward.  Though not a sculptor, it was great to see his work and to hear him talk about what he was accomplishing through his art.  He is certainly a character and his art really spoke to me in a visceral way, I really felt a connection to the ideas behind his drawings as he explained them. It would have never occurred to me to portray his ideas like he does, but that’s the beauty of the art world in a nutshell.  The group I was with also went to the Art House on the levy (an art center/collective/collaboration overseen by Bob Tannen (I think), who is a fixture in the New Orleans art (and bridge) scene) in the lower 9th, as well as some of the newer homes that have been rebuilt in the area.  These homes have modern and efficient designs, though somehow they still retain some of the same feel as the original shotgun type architecture.

New home in 9th ward

New home in 9th ward

The panels for the conference were lively and interesting and were hosted in three different venues: the Contemporary Art Center, the Ogden Museum, and the Renaissance Art Hotel.  The keynote speakers were Fairfax Dorn and Alice Aycock. By all reports, the panels were informative and interesting.  I tried to see as many as I could, but since many were going on at the same time, I had to skip around a bit to catch as much as I wanted to.  A couple speakers I saw were a bit unseasoned (I think just super nervous which maybe caused some robotic-ness) but the content was well worth staying in my seat to hear. All the other speakers I saw were both dynamic and entertaining while delivering insightful talks. There was a wide range of topics and themes covered by the presenters such as community and art, writing, public art, etc. One panel that I thought captured the spirit of the event was ‘Ignite the Art Spirit Through Interactive Community and Collaboration’. This panel was moderated by Crimson Rose of Burning Man, and had some great projects outlined by the speakers in a highly informative yet unpretentious and real way.  In a ‘human’ city, this group of speakers seemed to embody the spirit of the town in which they were presenting.  Some other highlights include Michael Manjarris’ discussion of Art New Orleans, Abby Suckle’s frank and hilarious discussion on writing about art, Delaney Martin’s Airlift project, and many others. I didn’t see everyone speak by any means, but I thought the ones that did speak were well done. Even though I had a small part in putting together some of the ideas for the panels, it’s hard to imagine the outcome of all the speakers until you see it in person, and over-all I was very pleased.

Two board members of the ISC, Chakaia Booker and Carole Feuerman, had exhibitions up during the conference.  Chakaia had work at the Newcomb Gallery at Tulane University and Carole had sculptures at Octavia Gallery on Julia Street.  Both were great looking shows at very nice venues. There were many other art shows around town in galleries and museums that showcased New Orleans’ interests in the arts as well.

ISC Board Members at Chakaia Booker's exhibition

ISC Board Members at Chakaia Booker’s exhibition

I went to several museums such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA. The Ogden had a great selection of self-taught and outsider artists that I really enjoyed. There was also an opening reception there for the conference with live music that was a really fun event as well.

Beautiful woodwork at the Ogden

Beautiful woodwork at the Ogden library

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden was a highlight of the trip. It is a world class sculpture garden with many of the top artists in sculpture history as well as current sculptors represented.  The layout was beautiful and the pieces had an intimate feel to them, each with their own space.  With over 60 sculptures on site, it’s hard to imagine a more complete collection of outdoor sculpture in scale and scope. Don’t miss a chance to see it if you are in the vicinity.

at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Jaume Plensa at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Jaume Plensa at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

I also got a chance to visit the World War 2 Museum, which was really cool.  They had planes, tanks, and many stories of veterans from the Pacific and European Campaigns. There was even a WW2 veteran on hand to talk to people.  Make sure you don’t go out of sequence when viewing the exhibits though, as I was reprimanded for not going in chronological order for some reason. No spoilers about who won, I guess…

At the WW2 Museum

At the WW2 Museum

In all, it was an absolutely fascinating town and a great destination city.  I found the conference to be engaging and well run by the staff of the ISC. The speakers and events surrounding the conference were excellent and I hope to see everyone at the next ISC event.

Reception at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Reception at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

They take their Halloween seriously here

They take their Halloween seriously here, though it’s hard to tell in the picture. Not even October yet…

About 4,000 calories for dinner....

About 4,000 calories for dinner….I’m done with seafood for a while I think.

Mardi Gras tree at Tulane

Mardi Gras tree at Tulane