If you're in Seattle and walk into the MadArt space, you might find yourself face-to-face with a giant sculpture of a tree. Composed entirely of meticulously stacked wooden blocks, the sculpture, called Middle Fork, stretches some 90 feet and was entirely made by hand. It was created in part thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers.
The idea behind this project came from artist John Grade, and the process of its creation is mind-bending in the sheer dedication it took Grade and his team.
A few years ago, Grade and his assistants went into the rainforest in North Bend, WA, and scaled a 140-year-old Western Hemlock tree. A team of arborists were on hand to make sure they did so in a safe fashion, both for themselves and the tree. The tree's massive trunk was then wrapped in foil. On top of that, a plaster cast was applied. When dry, the cast was carefully removed in sections and brought back to MadArt's studio space. It was there when the real work began.
Grade and his team made plaster casts of a 140-year-old hemlock. The casts went some 90 feet up the trunk, and stopped before the limbs branched out. The tree was not harmed in any way. On the right is the completed, hollow sculpture.
At the studio, volunteers arranged blocks of wood around the casts to form a hollow structure. The casts were removed once the structures were complete.
It took the hundreds of volunteers a year to complete the sculpture. Some walked into the studio right off the street because they were interested in participating.
Back at MadArt, Grade, his assistants, and hundreds of volunteers worked to create a life-sized hollow sculpture using hundreds of thousands of tiny wooden blocks. The whole process took a year to complete, and finally, the huge sculpture was suspended in the MadArt gallery.
In case you're wondering, the wood was all salvaged and repurposed. No new lumber was used in this project. Totally recycled!
The sculpture is obviously a tree, but, horizontal and hollow, it becomes abstracted as well.
The lattice-like wood block arrangement gives the familiar form of the tree a new texture and allows light to come through it, making its shape seem different and new.
Watch the video to see the whole process of Middle Fork from start to finish.video-player-present
Grade's Middle Fork will be on display in Seattle through April 25th, so stop by and check it out if you're in the area. (The exhibit is free, too.) When the exhibit is over, the sculpture will be transported back to the forest and left on the ground where the hemlock tree stands. Eventually, it will decay into the forest floor.