Unveiling the Symbolic Tree

Two weeks have passed since the grand opening of Trees of Onondaga: An Art Exhibition at the beautiful Onondaga Free Library in Syracuse, NY. 

I decided to make this post visually interesting and simple by sharing with you all the moments that made this event really special. To learn more about this project read Melinda Johnson's beautiful article at "Artist Maria Rizzo ends her community tree projects with art exhibition,".

To follow are some pictures of the event taken by photographer, Ray Trudell.

At the event, I gave the 1st limited edition print to each of the photographers whose local trees were selected to be painted by me in 2014 then Tom Howard gave a wonderful presentation about some of the best trees we have in Onondaga county!

Lastly, the Symbolic Tree created by 45 Onondaga County residents was finally unveiled. But before showing the final piece, I want to share some of the many people who painted into this piece throughout 2014.

And now is the time to show the final piece!

The Onondaga Symbolic Tree, created by forty-five Onondaga County residents, was donated to the Onondaga Free Library on Saturday, March 14, 2015. It's limited edition prints are available online at


My latest projects were made possible with a $2,500 Individual Artist Commission Grant from CNY Arts Decentralization Program.
Here is a list of participating libraries and residents:
    •    Solvay Public Library, April 5: Wendy Pitoniak, Pattie Hicks-Fiegl, Suzanne Masters, Mitzie Testani and Teresa Gardner-Barndollar.
    •    Liverpool Public Library, April 13: Domenico Gigante, Mary Mollica and Kathryn Wehrung.
    •    Fayetteville Free Library, April 19: Nicole Moss, Lewis Karpel and Angela Cwickla.
    •    Skaneateles Library, April 26: Megan Jae Riggs, Renee Marati and Deb Tomushunas.
    •    Onondaga Free Library, May 4: Ray Trudell, Susi Buschbacher and Lynn Hofsonner.
    •    Salina Library, May 17: Vicky Storey, Celine Nicholas, Kathleen Reed-Buck and Anne Iles.
    •    Fairmount Community Library, May 31: Marylin L. Marcy, Dan Elsbey and Linda Helles.
    •    Maxwell Memorial Library, June 7: Shailesh Joshi, Mick Mather, Rena Brower and Theresa Stachurski.
    •    Baldwinsville Public Library, June 14: Maryann Guinta, Steve Nyland and Jeff Madison.
    •    East Syracuse Free Library, June 21: Angela Arrey-Wastavino.
    •    LaFayette Public Library, June 28: Connie Marion.
    •    Dewitt Community Library, July 12: Father and son, Nick and Nick Lozoponi.
    •    Marcellus Free Library, July 19: Debbie Fratter, Paulette Quinn and Stephanie Moncavage.
    •    Manlius Library, Sept. 6: Ellen McCoy and Phoebe Vitharana.
    •    Tully Library, Sept. 20: Sonya Shepherd, Brianna Darling and Isabella Puentes.
    •    Petit Library, Nov. 1: Stasya Erickson and Lynne Odell.



The Story Behind the Gingko Tree

This week I highlight the story of Ellen Leahy and her photo of a Gingko tree. She is one of the eight winners of the Best Onondaga County Tree Photo Challenge, an interactive art project that asked Onondaga County residents to go into nature, find the most beautiful trees in our county, and send their suggestions to me with a photo.

Describe yourself: name, age, location, what do you do for a living and what are some of your hobbies? Hello, I am a ladylike lady who is also a bit feral, living in the old veterinarian’s house in Skaneateles. I like to wonder.

Why did you choose to photograph this particular tree?

I am particularly drawn to gingko trees because their beauty and hardiness. This gingko in particular is rather tall. Gingkos are ancient!

What time of the year was it? It was in the fall - every Fall I watch this tree change from green to yellow.

What is the exact location of this tree? The tree is on the eastern side of the historic Kreb’s Restaurant building on Route 20 in Skaneateles.

How did you find out about this challenge? I think Facebook

The making of the 'Gingko Tree'     

I chose this tree because I was attracted by its shape and color and because I was intrigued by its unique name. After doing some research I realized why the Gingko tree is such a fascinating species. Let me share a couple of facts with you:

" recognizes Ginkgo biloba as 'the oldest living tree on the planet that's been used safely for over 3000 years,' noting that this relic from dinosaur times 'was nearly wiped out during the Ice Age everywhere except in China.' " "Another notable ginkgo tree fact - the bark and leaves of the plant are believed to secrete a sap which acts as a fire retardant. One of the useful functions of ginkgo biloba is thus as a natural means of protection against fires."

Read more:…/fallfoli…/p/ginkgo_biloba.htm…

  Below you will see the development of this acrylic painting.

The finished Gingko tree from Skaneateles, NY was painted with Golden acrylic on a 24x18" gallery wrap canvas during the month of Febrary, 2015.

Gingko tree, 24x18" acrylic on canvas by Maria Rizzo, 2015.

Gingko tree, 24x18" acrylic on canvas by Maria Rizzo, 2015.

The Story behind the "Old Maple Tree"

Tom Howard

Tom Howard

This week I highlight the story of Tom Howard, one of the eight winners of the Best Onondaga County Tree Photo Challenge, an interactive art project that asked Onondaga County residents to go into nature, find the most beautiful trees in our county, and send their suggestions to me with a photo.


"I am Tom Howard, age 62, and I have lived most of my life in North Syracuse. I was born in Ogdensburg in northern NY. I've been working for OCPL (in the Local History and Genealogy Dept.) for the past 11 years. Tree study has been a life long hobby, ever since I grew up near the old growth North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove. I am a member of the Native Tree Society (NTS), an Internet group dedicated to the study of trees. I also write fiction (science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction) and poetry.

The tree in the photo is an ancient sugar maple in the old growth Liverpool School Maple Grove. It is an extraordinary tree, largest and possibly oldest sugar maple in the area. Other members of NTS have not seen a larger sugar maple. The picture was taken in Aug. 2014. The tree is located in the Liverpool School Maple Grove, which is behind the former Wetzel Rd. Elementary School, and near Liverpool High School, south of Wetzel Rd. in the town of Clay.

The tree is a sugar maple and is possibly one of the oldest of its kind in existence. It may be a survey Witness Tree for the Military Tract. The Military Tract covers much of central NY, and consists of lots granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War. The tract was surveyed about 1790, and surveyors marked "Witness Trees" along lot lines and borders. This tree has large scars that could have been made by the surveyor. A sugar maple Witness Tree stood on this spot, and I believe that this is the tree. If this is the tree that the surveyor marked about 1790, it would have been large and prominent then, possibly 200 years old then. This could be one of the oldest sugar maples in existence, at least 400 or more years old today. It is a craggy, ancient giant. I first saw this tree in 1998 when I drove around Onondaga County looking for old trees and old forests.

I heard of the challenge when I walked into the Central Library in downtown Syracuse, and saw your poster. I knew I had to enter it."                                                   -Tom Howard        

The making of the 'Old Maple Tree'     

Below you will see the development of this painting and how, like the Magnolia Tree's painting, my social media followers played a big part on the final result of this artwork.

I really liked the use of minimal colors in this painting but I was unsure how people responded to it. I thought about adding all the greens and browns to create a more similar copy of the photo but in my gut I felt that staying with this minimal color palette of yellows, greens and grays was the right thing to do to create a timeless piece.

So I asked my faithful friends and fans on social media what should I do and I was surprised by the many positive responses cheering me to continue with this limited palette, and so I did.

Old Maple Tree by Maria Rizzo, 30x24" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas, December 2015.

Old Maple Tree by Maria Rizzo, 30x24" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas, December 2015.

At the opening reception for Trees of Onondaga, Tom Howard will give a short presentation about our Onondaga County trees! The opening will take place on Saturday, March 14, at the Onondaga Free Library, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m..