Monday, April 02, 2018

Blood Metal Trees

One does not expect to see a stunning work of art at the town dump, but there it was — a stainless steel oak tree about fourteen feet tall. The dump attendant said nobody was sure what to do with it, so there it sat between the garage and the scrap wood pile. Knowing who made the tree I drove over to Rod Iron Designs and asked Rod Blood and his son Merton what their tree was doing at the dump.

In the Bloods' shop/studio under construction

I’ve learned that I need a couple of hours if I’m going to talk to them because they like to visit. They told me the tree was first assigned to another artist who didn’t get too far on it so the patron, now deceased, asked them to finish it. They did, and the result is astounding. The patron was quite pleased and his tree was delivered to a hillside perch near his house in Lovell. Upon his death he wanted Rod to give it to either the Town of Lovell or to Fryeburg Academy but neither entity could decide whether to accept it so there it sat at the dump.

Merton plans the next move

Metal is cold and hard, but doesn’t seem so after Rod Blood and his son Merton work it. They’re artists who use iron or steel as their medium. They’ll do utilitarian repairs if asked and that’s what Rod did for decades working for others. His creative work was a sideline until some years ago when he dove in full time as “Rod Iron Designs.” Now he and Mert have more work than they can handle at their shop near Kezar Lake in Lovell.

Outside Portland Museum of Art

Outside the Portland Museum of Art stand metal sculptures like the one above which don’t appeal to me, but indicate the museum’s interest in the genre. If neither Lovell nor Fryeburg Academy appreciated the tree, I figured maybe the museum would. I took several pictures of it and sent them to a trustee I know. He was impressed — even more so after driving over to see it. He sent the pictures to the museum’s director, Mark Bessire, who contacted me. I told him of a smaller oak tree the Maine Medical Center commissioned the Bloods to create which now stands next to the hospital’s main entrance just down Congress Street from the Museum. Bessire said he would walk over and check it out.

The tree at Maine Medical Center entrance

The trunk and branches of the small tree are stainless steel, but it’s in full foliage with each individual leaf fashioned of copper oxidized to green. The tree is only about four or five feet tall but it’s perched on a pedestal with roots grasping outcrops of feldspar and quartz the Bloods dug out of the hills of western Maine. After seeing photographs of the hospital tree at their workshop I believed I could take better ones. I tried every angle, with flash and without, but was frustrated by the sterile setting. The tree is beautiful but it’s surrounded on all sides by concrete, glass, aluminum, or brick — and not well lit either. It would look much better just inside the entrance in the main lobby.

Rod and Mert were flattered that the Portland Museum of Art was interested in the bigger tree, but not sure how to proceed if neither Lovell nor Fryeburg Academy wanted it. Rod felt the weight of his deceased patron’s wishes and his obligation to fulfill them. It was an honor thing, a duty. Shortly thereafter, however, Lovell’s Board of Selectmen finally decided the tree could be placed at the site of the former Annie Heald School in Lovell Village next to the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library. There it stands today.

The morning after an ice storm last January it was completely glazed over. So were the trees around it and all were backlit by the rising sun. For a few hours the metal tree was indistinguishable from its natural neighbors.

Steel tree outlined in black

More people would have been able to see and appreciate the tree if it were next to the museum in Portland's Congress Square, but I’m glad it’s in Lovell. Both its artists and its patron are from here and this is where it belongs. I would, however, question why there’s a big pile of riprap stones around its base hiding so much of the trunk. It’s not as if the tree is going to be blown down by wind. It can’t have been placed there for aesthetic reasons, can it? I hope it's not a permanent arrangement.

The rock pile doesn't work

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And another one, indoors, sorta' holding up the stairs at what is now The Local Grocer in North Conway.