See portraits of gnarled conifers

A couple draws and writes about the complexities of bristlecone pines and humans.

  • Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Bristlecone Pine)

    Valerie P. Cohen
  • The Abstract Truth

    Valerie P. Cohen
  • An Unbidden Thought (Bristlecone Pine)

    Valerie P. Cohen
  • Spinal Tap (Puma Skeleton)

    Valerie P. Cohen


Swirls of black ink, intersected and framed by ruler-straight lines, create an intricately rendered abstraction of the grain of a bristlecone pine. Tree Lines explores the long lives of the high-altitude conifers of the dry eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin.

Each of the 28 drawings by Valerie Cohen collected here is accompanied by a vignette written by her husband, Michael Cohen. The Cohens often walk through the trees together, but each of them works in isolation, without any criticism or coaching. The end result is a harmonious juxtaposition of two different ways of interpreting the complex relationship between humans, the alpine environment and the tough old conifers that dwell there. “To see them now or even to walk among them seems to create them,” Michael writes. “But this is not true. The trees say where to go.”

Tree Lines
By Valerie P. Cohen and Michael P. Cohen.
80 pages, softcover: $29.95.
University of Nevada Press, 2017.