Images by Lee Laa Ray Guillory
Utē petit is an artist and farmer from Southfield, Michigan. Their work is founded on ancestral heritage of their grandmother’s roles as quilters, educators, and farmers. Utē is interested in how their artwork can pair farming with the larger infrastructure of ecology and transportation.
While traveling through New Orleans, Louisiana and Columbia, Jackson and Pickens, Mississippi, Utē is exploring the creation of a nation called “Ailantha.” Named for the “Ghetto Palm” or “Tree of Heaven,” the Ailanthus Altissima is an invasive tree species native to China. With the ability to clone itself when threatened, it can be found growing in any condition—on roofs, in toxic soils, in forests—with great rigor.
Utē relates this tree as a symbol for Black folks who find themselves in the Americas, and as as empowerment symbol for their ongoing development of a regional transit cooperative.