Metal Preserves and Transforms Features of Trees in Art by Ed Shay and Letha Wilson

Ed Shay’s ten-foot-tall bronze “Acadian Gyro” entered deCordova Sculpture Park about three decades ago. Letha Wilson’s nearly as tall cor-ten steel sculpture “Hawaii California Steel(Figure/Ground)” came in about two years ago. Until now I hadn’t  considered their common key elements: 1) attention to the forms of leaves and branches, 2) expressive rendering of those forms in durable metals ( bronze and steel), 3)relation to the seasonally changing foliage of nearby trees. My awareness grew from posting about four more obviously tree-related artworks in the park and noting further connections. Though I have been a volunteer guide in the park for almost two decades, this focus led me deeper into resources with heightened reasons to share them.

“The sculpture’s form evokes the skeleton of a ship melding with the natural landscape and the body of a fish. Its fins look like both leaves and oars as the sculpture hovers amidst the trees and above the distant water.” ( quote from description of Ed Shay’s art in deCordova Sculpture Park Trustees)

Now that I have seen a video of Ed Shay working with leaves and branches on his land and watched an intriguing interview with him from 2015, I feel his commitment to “people who think with their hands.” ( Play PBS WSIU “EXPRESSIONS”)

Now that I have reread the deCordova booklet about the artist’s process and circled her sculpture with my iPhone camera in different weather, I know the artwork offers a rewarding array of views.

“With Hawaii California Steel (Figure Ground), Wilson brings large-scale photography to the deCordova’s Sculpture Park. A site-specific commission, this 10-foot-tall structure features larger-than-life-size photographs of the desert and jungle that have been printed onto intersecting Cor-ten steel plates.” ( quote excerpt from description of Wilson’s art on deCordova Sculpture Park Trustees)

“Many of Shay’s ancestors settled in Acadia, and Acadian Gyro started as an exploration of his heritage. Building on leaf and branch forms, it developed from a primitive skeletal sculpture of a ship into a fish with winged oars. Shay explains, “The overall piece is a spiritual totem which I came to equate, quite unexpectedly, with my grandfather, Hector McDonald. I mounted the piece on a crudely fashioned rooftop structure much as a gyroscope ensures direction and stability as afforded by my heritage.”” (quote excerpt with quote from Ed Shay in Kat Publicity blog post September 2010)

To adhere her photographs on Cor-ten steel, Wilson used direct-to-substrate printing, a relatively new process that fuses the images onto the underlying metal.” ( quote excerpt from description of Wilson’s art on deCordova Sculpture Park Trustees)

For more information and images of Letha Wilson’s range of artwork and exhibitions visit GALERIE CHRISTOPHE GAILLARD and Letha Projects

Additionally, land, landscape and sense of place motivate both artists. Their titles, processes and outcomes confirm that!

One comment

  1. Good Morning,
    How are you? Carl Panepinto Bay Crane. Just reaching out to inform you that Bay Crane has started an art division. We currently have 6000 square feet of dedicated art storage space inside a 200,000 square foot building which can easily be expanded upon. With 35’ ceilings along with overhead crane, mobile cranes, and multiple gantries we are capable of handling monumental sculptures for you if the situation should arise. If you need us we are here. Thanks for your time.

    My Best,

    Carl Panepinto


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