On Thursday, June 11, 2020, Woodmere
welcomed a new work of art to its grounds that has been a longtime aspiration: Alter Root (2002) by Steve Tobin. The bronze root sculpture is the generous gift of Dennis Alter. "I have long recognized that Tobin, an artist of international renown, is one of the lead artists of Philadelphia. I am thrilled to have given Alter Root a home at Woodmere, where it takes its place as the artist's first work on public view in our city, Mr. Alter said.
In the early 2000s, Tobin began creating bronze casts of the actual roots of upturned trees. The most famous exampleand one of the most well-known sculptures in the USis his Trinity Root, a cast of the stump and roots of a sycamore tree that was smashed by debris during the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City. The large canopy of the seventy-year-old tree helped shield St. Pauls Chapel, part of Trinity Church, from the blast. The sculpture was installed at Trinity Church for many years, and was recently moved to Connecticut.
Tobins root sculptures represent a feat of engineering virtuosity. The artist is known for devising ways to do things that havent been possible before. It was no ordinary project to cast every intricate tendril of Alter Root, preserving the range of natural textures and the hundreds of twisting, organic forms. It has a delicate, dancer-like quality that belies its strength and monumental presence. Designed to balance on its own feet, its a freestanding shape that supports its own weight.
The root is an expression of natures nourishing force. Tobin has said, For me, my worship is nature and I want to create on the grandest scale that I can. The spider-like root is something of a specter, the manifestation of a once-living entity that lived underground, unseen by human eyes. At the same time, Alter Roots bright red patina demands attention and declares itself to be a metaphor. Woodmeres Director and CEO, William Valerio stated, Roots are much on our minds these days: the roots of injustice, the roots of inequality, and the roots of social ills. When superficial fixes arent
enough, we dig to the roots in order to make change.
As Philadelphia approaches the Green Phase, Woodmere will soon reopen to the public. In the
meantime, guests are invited to tour the grounds to see Alter Root at its new home. The museum is
offering a self-guided tour of its outdoor sculpture and ecological features, which is accessible
online, by using a smartphone to scan QR codes near each feature, or by picking up a printed map
near Woodmeres main entrance.