When a 200-year-old oak tree died in Whitefish Bay, this family hired a local sculptor to turn it into art
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When a Whitefish Bay familyâs 200-year-old oak tree died, they hired a local sculptor who carved the treeâs decaying trunk into a piece of art.
âBecause it was so big and it was so central in our backyard, my wife began to be uncomfortable with all the branches, and the fact that they could break off and hurt somebody,â said homeowner Morgan White.
White and his wife, Ann, searched for sculpture ideas online and in magazines. They settled on a depiction of a castle-like village surrounded by a snaking staircase.
White called his friend and art gallery owner Frank Sadler, who showcases Jeremy Wolf's art at Sadler Gallery in the Third Wardâs Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St.Buy Photo
Artist Jeremy Wolf stands with the castle-like village he carved from a 200-year-old oak tree in the backyard of Ann and Morgan White's home in Whitefish Bay. Visit jeremywolf.com to view more of Jeremy's work. (Photo: Scott Ash/Now News Group)
For Wolf, a Hartford-raised and Washington Heights-based artist, it was an opportunity for him to expand his skill set.
âAnimals have been my trademark ever since I started doing art, so this one was out of left field because itâs architectural,â said Wolf. âIâm used to doing stuff thatâs much more organic and nuanced.â
Wolf, 42, used a 16-inch bar chainsaw for most of his work on the project, which has taken about 150 hours of work since early June. He started the project by sculpting a small model of it. Wolf said he carefully used the model to make exact measurements on the tree for each cut.
âOnce you remove the wood, itâs gone,â he said. âYou canât put it back anymore, so you actually have to be fairly mathematical about your approach.âBuy Photo
After a 200-year-old oak tree died in the backyard of Ann and Morgan White's home in Whitefish Bay, they hired an artist to carve a sculpture from it. (Photo: Scott Ash/Now News Group)
The project was also the largest heâs worked on. His canvas â" the treeâs remains â" stands about 10 feet tall.
After this 200-year-old oak tree died in the backyard of Ann and Morgan White's home in Whitefish Bay, they decided to hire an artist to carve a sculpture from the trunk. (Photo: Submitted)
The tree fell victim to bur oak blight; a disease caused by a fungal pathogen that slowly kills its host.
The nearly 90-foot-tall tree started fading last fall. The tree's leaves fell off when it began to bloom this year.
âWith the pandemic and all this other stuff going on, it just seemed like the right time to clear the decks,â said White. âWith so many people not working, we were of the opinion that it would be nice to give somebody some work and end up with a beautiful piece of art in our yard rather than just a stump or a hole in the ground.â
Over the Fourth of July weekend, White said, friends and neighbors stopped by and expressed interest in putting art in their own yards.
âEveryoneâs like âI canât wait until one of my trees dies,ââ he said. âPeople are just dumbfounded by it.â
Although White has fond memories of the tree over his 20 years living there, he won't miss picking up acorns and leaves every year, he said.
âIt covered most of the yard like a huge umbrella. It was kind of a love-hate thing,â he said.
White said the project has been the focal point of the familyâs day since Wolf started carving.
Eddie Morales can be reached at 414-223-5366 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @emoralesnews.
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