Most of us don’t associate plywood with fine art, but an Oakland-based sculptor named Gabriel Schama is changing that with layered laser-cut creations of stunning intricacy. Some of his designs are architectural, others more organic, some even incorporating type.
The artist works with 1/8” pieces of plywood, stacking them on top of each other to create dimension and depth.
Schama starts with vector illustrations, sending each layer to his laser cutter (which he has nicknamed ‘Elsie’) and then hand-gluing and finishing each piece. On his Instagram, Schama details his creative process, showing how he draws each vector layer on a Cintiq tablet pad. He currently has several works up for sale on his website.
The entire history of trees on earth, from the very first species that emerged 390 million years ago to species only recently discovered, comes together in a single sculptural installation on the grounds of a garden in the UK. ‘Hollow’ by artist Katie Paterson and architects Zeller & Moye is a meditation space made of lumber sourced and gathered from around the globe, immersing visitors in a miniature forest of spectacular diversity.
Set into the grass at the Historic Royal Fort Gardens in Bristol, ‘Hollow’ is a beautiful and evocative tribute to the history and importance of trees, each individual piece telling a story. The 10,000 wooden components range from tiny little cubes of rare samples to beams that run nearly the entire height of the installation, glued together in a seemingly random arrangement to create a sort of cavern. Look up from the inside and you’ll see the sky through a series of apertures, designed to mimic the way sunlight filters through the branches in a forest canopy.
“Some samples are incredibly rare – fossils of unfathomable age, and fantastical trees such as cedar of Lebanon, the Phoenix palm, and the Methuselah Tree thought to be one of the oldest trees in the world at 4,847 years of age,” says Paterson. “Also, a railroad tie taken from the Panama Canal Railway, which claimed the lives of between 5,000 to 10,000 workers over its 50 year construction, and wood salvaged from the remnants of the iconic Atlantic City Boardwalk devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.”
Simultaneously strong and easy to carve, pine offers some of the most versatile characteristics in the world of wood, and this series of incredible sculptures puts that fact to a visual test. Brussels-based artist Xavier Puente Vilardell uses mostly manual tools to manipulate pine trunks into surreal sculptures highlighting the pliability of the material, almost as if you could twist it into a new shape with your bare hands.
Vilardell allows the natural contours of the wood to provide inspiration, guiding him in how each trunk should be cut and shaped. Spirals and corkscrews follow the pattern of tree ring growth, knots become highlights and smaller branches turn into protrusions of various shapes.
The artist seems to take particular pleasure in the visceral aspects of carving with pine, enjoying its “strong and penetrating odor that takes root in the land.”
“Working with wood requires a deep respect for the living, it must understand its inner nature and characteristics that give a certain personality.” Villardell likens the process to a writer creating a character with their own life, flaws and virtues, experiences, nuances and peculiarities.
Most modern bus stops are made of glass and steel, but one Spanish design collective has proven that pine lumber can actually be a fresher, more visually dynamic way to go – especially when you’re thinking outside the box creatively. Fourteen feet tall, this bus stop in Baltimore features three large sculptures that form the word BUS.
Taking this unusual approach not only provides a practical place for commuters to wait, it also creates a new landmark and work of public art for the city. Planks of pine are screwed onto a steel base structure designed to hold extra weight.
Passengers can sit, stand or lie down within the letters, depending on which one they choose. Each letter accommodates 2-4 people. The pine was left uncoated so it’ll take on a weathered look over time with exposure to the elements.
At first, you might look at Randall Rosenthal’s artwork and think – what’s so special about this? It’s just a stack of newspapers, or a box with some cash on it. But reach out to touch it and you’d be in for quite a surprise – because it’s all made of wood. Eastern White Pine, to be specific, a smooth and highly malleable wood that’s perfect for achieving incredible detail like this.
Each sculpture is carved from a single solid block of pine and painted with acrylics. Even the paper, rubber bands and skillfully crafted corrugated edges on cardboard boxes are carved from the wood.
What makes these creations even more amazing is that Rosenthal isn’t looking at some kind of source material while he’s creating each one. He sculpts them as he goes, achieving incredible realism with nothing but his imagination.
See more of Rosenthal’s work at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery.