The Madison sewage district works to manage water flowage to support marsh life on the S. Side.
Today I took a walk and encountered swallows maneuvering over the green algae covered water, fiesty redwings, a dramatic killdeer, gold finches, Canadian geese, black duck with ducklings in tow, three kinds of dragonflies and a white moth.
My participation in the Earth Dance 2019 environmental art show is to continue to work on the Farley Tree Project.
The tree is a 10 foot trunk of a fallen oak tree. After some planning, we settled on using carved vines to divide the tree surface into distinct panels that artists can use to create pieces that fit the title: Rooted in the Land.
Outdoor art is a challenge on several levels. The weather limits when work can be done. Even so, after stripping off the mark and making a grid on the trunk, I was able to transfer the vine drawing onto the trunk. Then began the work of carving in the vines. This process is about half way done. I plan to have all the vines finished and painted by the onset of winter.
On testing the tree for the quality of the wood, I discovered that one of the areas is relatively soft. This lead to idea of attaching woodpeckers at that level. I chose Red Headed woodpeckers for two reasons. They are native to Wisconsin and tend to like to roost in the standing trunks of dead trees. The other reason is that these birds are declining in their population. This is thought to result from the smaller number of available dead trees left standing on private property. The other reason is that these birds will sometimes chase after insects right into traffic.
Woodcarving often uses products that are not environmental. So I created a stain for the red heads using beets and beet greens. The black color is from soaking steel wool in vinegar.
I am working on developing a good green color, but that has not as yet been successful. I have collected some walnuts and want to create a brown stain from those.
The tree itself is sealed for now with a coating of linseed oil. It will be interesting to see how the colors weather.
There are plenty of panels available if you would like to participate in the project. Here is a link to the simple application. Artists Proposal
At a rental cabin up north we noticed peculiar birds climbing down the trees – the nut hatch. That family like mine found rest and security in our woodland homes.
We had rented a hillside cabin for a week’s rest. It was a rambling house set into the hill. The owners appeared to be bird lovers as there were a number of feeders off of the deck, hanging among the trees. A variety of birds came and went, along with one very acrobatic squirrel. But the birds that caught our attention were small ones with pointed beaks. What was unique about them is that they were usually looking downward as they climbed in the trees. We learned that they are nut hatches, whose unusual view of the world arises from looking for food from the top down. They find what other birds do not see.
It seems as if the human family in our temporary home, perching on the hill, had much in common with the nut hatch family outside our window.
I have taken a piece of found wood from where I live near Nine Springs in Madison, because it had a large knot suitable for a nest. I gathered some dry grass nearby and constructed a nest from it. The nut hatches on the piece are stylized, but I am trying to capture their jaunty pose.
carved from basswood
making milk glue
The challenge of this environmental art project is the finish of the piece. Wood is natural, but often wood carvers use paints and stains that are unnatural and even possibly toxic. So then I have used mineral oil to seal the pieces, natural stains where needed, and used hidden dowels and a milk based glue to attach the nut hatches to the piece. The challenge is also the charm of this kind of art; I expect that the piece will age somewhat quickly on location. Art again follows the course of nature and all things.
It started with a summer storm. Severe winds tore through the East side of Madison and downed a number of trees. Three of these were saved and taken to the Urban Wood Fest to show how fallen wood can be saved and used. That is where I acquired a slab of ash. This tree came from Hudson Park which features a burial mound. As I walked around the park, I saw other trees, and the mound crowded with prairie plants, carefully not mown down by the city parks workers.
An ancient tribe came here and built these mounds, we are not sure what for exactly. Another park nearby has a bear and a lynx mound. The one at Hudson is not easily identifiable. Just as these visitors found something to commemorate, I remember a previous visit along the shore. We were canoeing between the Yahara and Olbrich park when we saw a blue heron along the shoreline.
I was able to find photographs of the blue heron and so developed this design. I chose to represent the heron in shallow relief, and to develop the color and life of the bird with several layers of thinned acrylic paint. This is the result. I think it is a fitting use for the ash wood that was blown into my way.
We are very fond of Parfrey’s Glen, which is close to Devils Lake in Wisconsin. Years ago we took the kids along a very developed trail. Six years ago a flood came through and demolished most of the trail up the riverbed. Now it is a bit of a challenge but a more natural environment. Here are a few pictures from this past Wednesday morning.