Artist Michael Beitz has reimagined an outdoor table with his massive design called Tree Picnic. Spanning 20 feet by 50 feet, the piece comprises a tabletop with attached seating that is in the shape of a leafless tree. Its form features a trunk that has branches moving in different directions that allow for multiple parties to sit at the one table. At the “top” of the tree, the height of the table decreases to offer special seating for children.
Tree Picnic was created in 2014 as a commission for the ArtFarms Project, which asked artists to “design urban farms on repurposed plots of land” throughout Buffalo, New York. Beitz developed the table and seating as a community farming space on an abandoned lot. “I was asked to design a grow structure for plants,” he tells My Modern Met, “but instead designed a grow structure for people, which would be in the center of a small orchard.”
Beitz conceived of the table while at the Roswell Artist in Residence program in New Mexico. He began by drawing the shape of it on a large cement pad and then glued the planks of wood together and cut shapes to fit next to one another. “The wood I used was Beetle Kill Blue Pine supplied from a local lumber. The Beetle Kill Pine is known as being ‘dead standing timber’ as it is killed by bark beetles.” The insects have a fungus which changes the color of the tree into tones you might not expect like blue, purple, pink, or orange.
Tree Picnic is a representation of family—however you might define it—as it is conceptually expressed through furniture. Families are often thought of as a tree (family tree), and a picnic table is meant to unite people. “My hope for the future of the orchard was that it would provide a beautiful place to come together,” he explains. “I envisioned events, such as family reunions, community organization meetings, fundraisers, and friendly gatherings.”