, Salem, MA


March 27, 2014

The sad truth

Artist confronts sorry state of affairs with exhibit, parade

Sometimes we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Artist Greg Cook captures this mixture of emotions in “The Saddest Forest on Earth,” a unique grove of trees he created for Montserrat College of Art’s 301 Gallery on Cabot Street in Beverly.

“It’s sort of like a poor man’s, do-it-yourself, wacky Disneyland kind of thing — but more disconcerting,” said Cook, who lives in Malden and teaches at Montserrat.

The exhibit will also serve as the finishing point for “The Saddest Parade on Earth,” which will feature banners and music and starts at 248 Cabot St. on “Sad-urday,” March 29, at 11 a.m.

Painted on cutout fabric and ranging from 6 to 8 feet tall, Cook’s trees wear sad faces, while a shower of tears falls through their branches. They occupy the gallery’s window and present their mournful expressions to the traffic and pedestrians on Cabot Street.

“The space is 3 feet deep; it’s like a shallow diorama,” Cook said. “Mostly, I do cartoony kind of work. I do some illustration, some gallery or fine art, and it all has a cartoony sensibility.”

But if his trees look like they belong in a comic strip, they are also sharing a serious emotion that Cook believes is common these days.

“I think a lot of people are feeling sad,” he said. “I think it’s been a tough decade with wars and recessions. There’s all this financial anxiety the last couple of years, all this fear about how you’re going to feed your family.”

Cook has made characters out of trees in earlier works and is interested in the way forests appear in our imaginations.

“I was painting things about early New England,” Cook said. “I was interested in the witch scare and the wars between the English, French and Native Americans.

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