If a Tree Falls: Art of the Boundary Oak memorializes the City of Walnut Creek’s signature Valley Oak, which tragically fell during a massive windstorm in October 2019. As a tribute to the tree’s long life and rich history, which spanned 325 years, sixty-four emerging, midcareer, and established Bay Area artists have created artworks from its wood, offering this monumental being a second life.
Indigenous to California, Valley Oaks are among the largest of North American oaks and can live up to 600 years. Their trunks and limbs have thick, ridged bark similar to alligator hide and their leaves are covered with a soft fuzz that is velvety to the touch. Due to their structure, size, and long lifespans, they are vital to California’s ecosystem, hosting and providing sustenance for a variety of animals and insects.
This particular Valley Oak was the centerpiece at Boundary Oak Golf Course, approximately five miles north of Mount Diablo. Having survived 325 years, the old oak not only experienced dramatic ecological changes in the area, but also witnessed the colonization of the native Bay Miwok peoples and the modernization of what is now considered the City of Walnut Creek. The tree was alive for the signing of the US Constitution, the Gold Rush Era, the Civil Rights Movement, and countless other historic events that have shaped our country. Symbolizing strength and perseverance, the grand tree captured the hearts of the local community and became the iconic logo for the City of Walnut Creek.
This timely community show provides a much-needed celebration of local artists and highlights the unifying forces of nature. If a Tree Falls includes Bay Area artists who work across disciplines from painting and drawing to woodturning and carving. Each artwork—made exclusively for the show—incorporates pieces of Walnut Creek’s beloved Boundary Oak, providing visitors a rare opportunity to see how artists interpret the same base material in diverse ways. The beauty of this exhibition is that the Boundary Oak tree will continue to exist through the thoughtful reimagining of the Bay Area artistic community.