Toni Putnam worked primarily as a painter, then printmaker, before working with three-dimensional materials. She directed her focus to metal sculpture and developed innovative techniques for welding copper sheets as seen in 'Sacred Grove'.
The idea for this 'Tree series' came to the artist after a visit to Japan in 1991 where everything is reduced to its most essential form, and the landscape is created and shaped according to philosophic and spiritual ideals. Putnam developed a fascination with and the desire to reduce the subject of an artwork to its essence. Her 'Tree series' demonstrates the complexity and uniqueness of the individual forms while adhering to a simple, coherent aesthetic. Additionally, she thought about the familiar images of "lollipop" trees she had drawn as a child. Combining these concepts, she conjured groves of trees, environments that are simultaneously real and imagined, serious and humorous.
Putnam describes her personal relationship with the natural environment which informs her work: "I grew up in the country and rather alone, and so became friendly with a number of trees: there was the one for climbing and swaying with in the wind, the one to talk to, and the one to sit under and read, draw or paint. Then, also, were their shapes and tactile delights: barks, leaves, pods, seeds, acorns, nuts. They were all my friends, and I visited them regularly. Many are gone now, devoured by development or old age, and I have moved away. They have reintegrated themselves into my present life, in my ‘country,’ my ‘art,’ as my ‘Sacred Grove’. Please honor them."