Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Australian artist Konstantin "Kon" Dimopoulos and local volunteers used a non-toxic pigment to create art called "The Blue Trees" at Thrasher Park in Norcross Saturday. Dimopoulos hopes the art project brings awareness to global deforestation and its global impact.
NORCROSS -- The Australian artist set out to create a surreal environment, and on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, volunteers from as young as 2 years old rolled paint described as "electric" or "ultra marine" on trees in Thrasher Park.
"There are no blue trees, and if I painted them brown, nobody would care," said Konstantin Dimopoulos, an Australian artist who travels the world to raise awareness for social issues.
In this case, Dimopoulos used specially made, nontoxic paint to bring attention to global deforestation. The trees, mostly crape myrtles and trees that don't have thick bark, remain a vivid blue for about six months before the color is expected to fade.
Along with the blue trees, Atlanta artist Corrina Sephora Mensoff created a "Wish Tree" in the park where visitors write their hopes and wishes for the environment on weather-proof leaves.
Dimopoulos said global deforestation accounts for about 75 percent of trees, which he added was unnecessary. Dimopoulos said he enjoys the social aspect of art, and that cities like Norcross could discuss this project and others with people around the world.
Dimopolous said he's not against managed or sustainable forestry, but cutting down redwoods that are 200 or 300 years old is not an option.
"They're the closest thing to God you'll ever know," he said. "If you stand next to a redwood, if you ever get a chance, you look up, your head doesn't have far enough to go back."
Dimopoulos is in the midst of a week's stay in the area, and will move on to Albuquerque, N.M., and Houston before he returns to Australia. He's also created "The Blue Trees" in Melbourne, Australia, Vancouver, Canada, Seattle and Sacramento, Calif.
"The thing about Norcross is it takes on projects," Dimopoulos said. "Public art isn't an easy area to get into. It's really given the mayor and city of Norcross a lot of respect from me that they've decided that this project is important. Norcross is a small city, but it's lifting above its weight."
Dimopoulos said his idea shows how small the world is, because people contact him from Hawaii to Switzerland, and a main part of art is using it to convey a larger message about education or a social issue like domestic violence or homelessness.
"It could be a child in Norcross that comes up with the idea of solving deforestation, the whole thing," Dimopoulos said.
Norcross officials learned of Dimopoulos from Gina Alexander, who heard of him from a colleague in the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. Alexander said she suggested the possibility of contacting Dimopoulos because of how the city put on BOOfest, which merged Hispanic and Caucasian cultures. Alexander said the city is known for being progressive and creative, and once the idea was pitched, "they just jumped on it."
Dimopoulos said because God provides oxygen through trees, they are the "lungs to the world." The color blue also signifies breathlessness, Dimopoulos said.
Volunteers from Tree Atlanta, the Savannah College of Art & Design and Greater Atlanta Christian School participated in the event. The event is also a part of a class project by students from those schools, and there will be a panel discussion including Dimopoulos and Tree Atlanta's executive co-director Greg Levine at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.