John DeFaro

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The Miami Bottle Tree / Project narrative
The Miami Bottle Tree by John DeFaro is an art project directly influenced by the bottle trees developed by Central African people, which date back to the ninth century. The trees were placed outside, near the home to capture roving (usually evil) spirits at night. The following day the spirit would be destroyed by sunshine. The bottle could also be corked and thrown into the river to wash away evil spirits. For generations, bottle trees became a part of American family traditions.

John’s bottle tree project began in 2009 in preparation for a visit by youth in a KIDSART program directed by Artoconecto. Youth in KIDSART visited artist studios and participated in workshops led by the artist. Each week the children were given a community-oriented theme, like recycling.

In researching for an object to create for KIDSART that responded to the profile of the children that would also respond to the community theme John found “Bottle Tree Bob” online. After a conversation with Bob, John drove to Marbury, AL, obtained a rebar tree and drove it back to Miami.

A week later when the KIDSART youth arrived for the artist studio visit there was the rebar tree now covered with over 40 bottles. Next to the tree were tables filled with a wide range of objects. After a discussion of its history, encouraged by John the youth began to remove the bottles. They collectively and interactively recreated the tree with bottles and objects from the tables. The bottle tree became a vehicle for a new creation assembled “en masse” by the 12 attending youth. This bottle tree has since gone through various re-adaptations by John, youth, and others.