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British International Wood Sculpture Symposium
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Dolmen Forms 
Zen Gardens
SITKA SPRUCE, 78 X 240 X 96"
18 - 25 September 2002

Six International artists were chosen from Ireland, Yugoslavia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States (myself) through a selected competition. Some were chosen based on the curators' familiarity with their work; some were chosen through a search and 'selected' invitation and proposed-work on the Internet.

The Seminar was a part of TreefestScotland 2000 and was partially sponsored by Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Scotland, Arboretum International, The Forestry Service, based in Perth, Scotland, Perthshire and the EU. The sponsors provided materials, tools and equipment required to create the works in addition to room and board and transportation within Scotland and a small honorarium for the artists.

Artists worked during the day and then gathered in the evening for meals and discussions of their work and wider issues concerning artists in the contemporary world.

The sculpture began with a quite clear idea --a wood dolmen or cairn-like structure in an open 'u' plan with orientation and siting of the piece to consider the seasonal sunrise and sunset. It has three irregular trapezoid-shaped (wider sides down) sides angling inward giving a sense of weight and timelessness.

As the piece was constructed on the site, a dialogue developed between the Scottish landscape and the sculpture: it became something "about" and "within" the landscape. Much of the influence for the installation comes directly from my travel in northern Scotland, the Orkneys and Callinish, Isle of Lewis, and with recent experiences of Japanese Zen gardens in Kyoto and the pueblos of southwestern America in New Mexico. This is quite an assortment of cultures, but they all seem to resonate within me in their structure, massiveness, presence, and sense of place.

The overall form was shortened and widened to take on the broad-based asymmetrical trapezoid shape of the surrounding hills and mountains. The forms of the top were used to emphasize the mountains' shapes.

After discussion with some local residents, the (approximate) locations of the sunrise and sunset at the Winter Solstice were determined. Siting the central element directly to the south, the left plane is directed toward the Solstice sunrise and the right plane to the Solstice sunset (which is particularly early as the sun sets into a mountain side). The work symbolically and allegorically embraces and captures the sun for the shortest of winter days.

The unfinished materials, feathery edges, rough textured planes enhance the sense of naturalness and the sense of belonging to the landscape.

The piece developed into a shelter, a house, a place of protection. It became a carving of space rather than carving of object.

The angles of the ends of the 'u' planes seem to create a precariousness of balance but in so doing create a visual tension and mystery. The layering and interlocking corners of the wood 2x12" timbers forms an inherently, integral stable structure.

The wood --its changing patterns and irregularity-- suggests a sense of living in its exposed grain and texture by providing a sense of growing and naturalness across time. The physical strength of wood comes from its organic, living existence.

This installation employs a contemporary interpretation of ancient forms to create a structure and space that evokes a sense of calm, peaceful strength, of quiet stillness using the natural texture, weight and solidity of unfinished wood and the forms of the surrounding landscape.

27 September 2002