Outdoors Sculpture

Part 1: Ash Art

One unknown night in 2014 our place was covered over by a storm that included a wind microburst. (A freak confluence of winds that can easily surpass 100 miles per hour.) The next day -- or later --I was taking a walk that goes past our lower garden. Behind this garden we have a small patch of woods that are fairly mature trees, mostly tulip poplars, but also two ash trees and an unwanted buckeye. OMG! The ash trees were down, blown into the woods.

The smaller ash, about 10 inches in diameter, was blown into (literally) hundreds of splinters.  Splinter lengths ranging from about fifteen inches to over five feet. Ash is known as a wood that splinters easily, but I have never seen anything at all like what happened
to this one.

The larger ash, about twenty feet away, was riven with a single split, leaving a tapered vertical slab over thirty feet high. The rest of this tree was laid backwards into the woods, over some little springs with myriad wet-ecology plants and such.

I immediately had an inspiration to make something with these unique cataclysmic occurrences. They could not and should not be moved. Or changed in more than a minimal way. To paint, was my answer.

I started with the splintered ash, mainly because I didn’t know how it would be possible to work on the riven tower. The splintered tree was also challenging to work on. Some of it was quite fragile. And it’s located in a wet area that drops off around the base. I persisted.

For paint, I decided to use standard art acrylics, applied with brushes. Other paints might be more weather resistant, but I knew that no paint will hold up well in that environment. I used primary colors, plus black and white.  Possibly the splinters should have been primed – which would be very, very time-consuming. This didn’t happen. Getting a single coat on the splinters achieved the visual effect that I was hoping for. And I sort-of liked the idea that any viewers would see the Splintered Ash gradually disappear into the environment. Painting was completed in 2015.

I continued to think about how to paint the Riven Ash, just twenty feet away. Using ladders seemed to be too difficult, and dangerous. Also, I discovered that at about six feet, the ash has a rotten fissure crossing about half of the trunk. One day this baby is coming down.



Top: Wind Split Ash 2; Middle, bottom: Butoh Dancer, with detail; Right: Wind Split Ash 1.