Romantic Tree Carvings in New York City’s Forgotten Forests


It’s a time-honored tradition to carve a lover’s initials into a tree. And you’ll often see the names of bands and random teen lingo carved into bark. It’s a romantic record of gleefully reckless youth and idyllic young love. Artist Mary Reilly uses photography, powdered graphite, and lead graphite on paper to commemorate these “anonymous small crimes of passion.” Her exhibition at New York City’s Garvey|Simon Art Access, which closes today, memorializes the tree carvings found within the woods of Alley Pond Park, Queens. The gallery writes of her process:

Reilly uses an intensive layering technique to prepare her paper. Powdered graphite is repeatedly pushed into the paper (sometimes over a number of days) until the right tone is achieved. From there, both additive and reductive techniques (erasure) are used to masterfully render her subjects. The photographs she has taken on her journeys are her main source material, but she edits her subjects to reflect the exact memory, mood and light she associates with each specific place.

Reilly’s images capture the tiny, forgotten spaces of New York City where the magic of adolescence still lives among the trees.

Mary ReillyGraffiti Tree 3, 2013 Graphite On Paper 50 x 38 in

Mary ReillyMushroom Man, 2014 Graphite On Paper 16.3 x 11.8 in

Mary ReillyI Love U, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary ReillyLuv Shines, 2014 Graphite On Paper 23.5 x 18 in

Mary ReillyGraffiti Tree 4, 2014 Graphite On Paper 18 x 18 in

Mary Reilly2000 Toke, 2014Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary ReillyBe My Love, 2013Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary ReillyLed Zeppelin, 2013 Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary ReillyPeace, 2014Graphite On Paper 6 x 8.5 in

Mary ReillyBoy and Girl, 2013Graphite On Paper 11.5 x 9 in