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December 2005/January 2006
Featured Artist: Christmas Trees By Tim Rusmisel

Living in a Volkswagen van in the getaway town of Laguna Beach, California, Tim Rusmisel is a 32 year-old vegan, straight edge, yogi, surfer, artist, drummer, who never stops in his mission for total liberation. Working with local animal activists, drumming in the vegan band Seven Generations, and sporting an enormous black and green tattoo on his throat, “XVEGANX,” Tim is constantly triggering discussion, comments and ideas. It is no wonder his artwork goes beyond the image itself.

Tim’s photography spans the scope of social justice and environmental liberation. In fact, eschewing today’s modern practices, he opts for a 100 percent vegan technique called the wet plate process. Invented in 1851—the second photo process ever invented—Tim cuts pieces of glass to the specific size camera and turns the glass into film by hand, right on the scene where he shoots.

Tim’s series Better Than War studies the seemingly harmless world of plastic toy soldiers. In the following commentary on his images from the series Christmas Trees, Tim explores the mournful leftovers of our holiday excesses.—M.W.


For the last four or five years, I’ve spent Christmas Eve climbing fences and photographing what was left over at the Christmas tree lots.


Just about across the board, whenever I show somebody [this] series of photographs, they respond to them with very human emotions. I didn’t really mean to shoot them to say, ‘Hey look—this looks like a pile of dead bodies’ or something, but they come across that way and people really connect with them. I like people to feel strong emotions towards something besides human beings—to have real human emotions, like sadness or sympathy or empathy for hollow Christmas trees.
It’s kind of surprising how many trees are always there. These trees were farmed and resources had been put into them—not only for them to sit, dry out and die in someone’s house, but the leftovers… there’s just so many. It’s so wasteful. Like flea markets where they sell screwdrivers and there’s 500 in a pile and every single one of them is perfectly functional and in working order. But the flea market is basically the next stop before the dump, before the landfill. So it’s not really a direct protest of having Christmas trees, but just a way to look at a very blatant symbol of our excesses and the allocation of our resources.



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