Thursday, November 23, 2023

Fallen Trees Find New Life in Art

The final sculpture

My friend Bob Bangiola, an artist in Hudson, asked me to help him construct a sculpture in his back yard, which overlooks a vast, marshy expanse. He uses found wood—tree limbs, branches, and trunks—to connect post-and-lintel frames to make rudimentary edifices. At maybe eight feet tall, this was among the largest Bob has made; other works in his yard are about three feet tall.

The process entailed Bob positioning two primary, pre-constructed frames an appropriate distance apart to eventually form a rough cube. He then hoisted and tilted one upside-down “U” frame perpendicular to the ground. This is where I came in (plus a bit later, two people who were filming the process for a documentary). I stood by one post and helped position it to the point of zero gravity, as Bob checked in with me by voice, look, and balance so that both sides felt weightless. He used the phrase "tuning fork" on occasion, an apt term for the process of refining the work's balance through the most minute adjustments. 
To help keep one of the two main frames in place, Bob used a separate limb with a forked end, like a crutch, to prop it up. To support the other frame, he parked his Jeep against it to take its weight. He then positioned cross bars between the two frames, plus braces to make triangles, and drove in lag bolts to stabilize it.
A crutch-like branch and the Jeep support the frames 

Because of the nature of how trees grow, some of the tree lengths have slight twists and bows, so when they are positioned as crosspieces, they might rock or pivot. The differing density and heft of various woods is surprising. Each piece has its own characteristics that need to be factored in. As the work ages, it will settle.When the framework was stable enough to stand alone, Bob pushed and pulled on various parts to test its strength. He hung from the cross bars and pulled up his weight, bouncing to test its stability.Eventually, the structure will most likely collapse—most of the wood was dead to start with. But the process of decay and dissolution is part of the artwork. The piece evokes many things: shelter, a gate or passageway, a playground or acrobatics apparatus, to name a few—each viewer will form their own associations. For now, these fallen trees live anew.

Photos: Susan Yung

No comments: