Art on the Riverfront
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 | by Andrew Dowd
EAU CLAIRE — Caleb Carr crouches down to brush sand off a smooth circle of wood much like someone clearing dirt or leaves from a family member’s gravestone.
The wooden slab, actually the top of two-foot-long log buried along the bank of the Chippewa River, is a project the UW-Eau Claire senior majoring in illustration made for a class on site-specific art.
He and his three fellow students in the spring semester course taught by Cedar Marie, assistant professor of art and design, were challenged to create artwork along the riverbank behind the university’s Haas Center using materials found in nature.
The students used rocks, dead wood, plants and even litter to construct their artwork just off a well-used section of the Chippewa River Trail.
When searching the riverbank for inspiration, Carr found the remains of a tree that had been cut down and chopped into pieces and piled up.
“I was really struck by that,” he said, attributing his veneration of nature to his upbringing on a farm near Mineral Point.
Viewing the logs and brush as remains of a living being, Carr thought of a way to memorialize it.
He sanded off one end that had been scarred by a chain saw, replacing the rough surface with a smooth one that better showed the tree’s rings.
Digging a two-foot-deep hole in the soft sand of the riverbank, Carr laid the log inside with just the sanded end showing and flush with the surface.
Like names, dates and messages inscribed in tombstones, Carr felt that seeing the rings showing the tree’s age and documenting good and bad years for its growth tells a story too. [...]