Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Andrea Bowers

Vieja Gloria (video still)

Vieja Gloria (video still)

Andrea Bowers. Vieja Gloria (video still), 2003.

"Vieja Gloria" is a documentary about the first suburban tree sit in America. In Valencia, California there are huge suburban developments where many streets are named after oak trees because the natural landscape of that region was once filled with old growth Californian oaks. What was once natural landscape became ranch land during the 19th century. In last 30 years this land has been bought by developers and filled with suburban master planned developments for as far as the eye can see. Many of the old oaks have been cut down or dug up to make way for suburban landscaped lawns, shrubs and sometimes even newly planted oak saplings. Recently the natural environment and suburban development collided in this region. Developers, environmentalists and suburbanites went to battle with one another at the site of a 400 year old oak tree named "Old Glory" that was scheduled to be cut down in order to widen a road leading to another massive master planned community. In a last minute attempt to save the tree, environmental activist John Quigley moved into the tree where he lived for 71 days until he was physically removed by Los Angeles County authorities. This video documents this conflict over the landscape, and is an account of John Quigley and the multitudes of people who came to bare witness. The story unfolds through the voice of John Quigley. Issues of patriotism, activism and prejudice are raised. Because of its age and namesake the tree serves as a surrogate for America. In a climate when dissent from the political mainstream is often portrayed as un-American, a collective of people uses protest as a patriotic display. As the story spread through the press, the early supporters from the mainly white, suburban neighborhood grew to encompass a larger group of predominantly Latino immigrant families. The developers built ever-expanding fences around the tree to keep protesters and supporters at bay. Ironically the repetitive motif of fences becomes a metaphor for suburban fear of difference. Political upheaval is familiar to Quigley who grew up in a political family. His uncle is Eugene McCarthy, the presidential peace candidate in 1968 whose campaign was largely run by young people called the "Ballot Children". The role that family plays in activism is revealed through the relationship between John Quigley and his uncle's historic presidential campaign as well as the number of families who committed themselves to the cause of saving the tree.


documentary, nonviolence, protest, activism, tree sit, environmentalism, video

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Los Angeles, CA
United States


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